Subscribe to our InfoBytes Blog weekly newsletter and other publications for news affecting the financial services industry.
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.
On March 18, the FDIC announced (see here and here) the approval of two deposit insurance applications, which will allow for the creation of two de novo industrial banks. The first approval order will permit a California-based company to originate commercial loans to merchants that process card transactions through the company’s payments system and will operate from a main office located in Utah. The second approval order will permit a Nebraska-based corporation to originate and service private student loans and other consumer loans. The new bank will operate as an internet-only bank from a main office located in Utah. Both companies now await approval from the Utah Department of Financial Institutions.
Separately, on March 17, the FDIC announced that it is seeking comments on a proposed rule that would require 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 proposed rule applies to industrial banks whose parent company is not subject to consolidated supervision by the FRB. The proposed rule would require 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.
The proposed rule would require 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. These include: (i) providing a list of all parent company subsidiaries annually; (ii) consenting to examinations of the parent company and its subsidiaries; (iii) submitting to annual independent audits; (iv) maintaining necessary records; (v) limiting the parent company’s representation on the industrial bank’s board to 25 percent; (vi) maintaining the industrial bank’s capital and liquidity requirements “at such levels deemed appropriate” for safety and soundness; (vii) entering into tax allocation agreements; and (viii) implementing contingency plans “for recovery actions and the orderly disposition of the industrial bank without the need for a receiver or conservator.” Comments on the proposed rule will be due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
On March 17, the Federal Reserve announced the creation of a special credit facility to serve as a funding backstop to facilitate commercial lending. Under the structure, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York will lend money to the newly created special purpose vehicle (SPV) on a resource basis, to be secured by the commercial loans purchased by the SPV from eligible issuers. There are limits on the maximum amount any single issuer may sell to the SPV. The SPV is scheduled to cease purchasing additional commercial paper on March 17, 2021.
On April 2, the Federal Reserve Board, the OCC, and the FDIC (agencies) issued a joint press release announcing the adoption of a final rule, which would increase the threshold for commercial real estate transactions requiring an appraisal from $250,000 to $500,000. After receiving more than 200 comments to their July 2017 joint notice of proposed rulemaking (see previous InfoBytes coverage here), the agencies increased the threshold to $500,000, rather than $400,000 as originally proposed. The rulemaking initiative responded to financial industry concerns that adjustments had not been made to the current threshold amounts, which were set 24 years ago. In accordance with the final rule, commercial real estate transactions exempted by the $500,000 threshold will no long require appraisals, but will instead be subject to an evaluation, which is not required to comply with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraiser Practices in order to provide a market value estimate of the real estate pledged as collateral and is not required to be completed by a state licensed or certified appraiser. However, the final rule stipulates that real-estate related transactions secured by a single one-to-four family residential property are excluded. The final rule will take effect immediately upon publication in the Federal Register.
Federal Banking Agencies Issue Proposed Rulemaking to Amend Appraisal Requirement Threshold for Commercial Real Estate Transactions
On July 19, the Federal Reserve Board, the FDIC, and the OCC issued a joint notice of proposed rulemaking to raise the threshold for commercial real estate transactions requiring an appraisal from $250,000 to $400,000 in an effort to reduce costs and streamline transactions. The proposal was issued, in part, in response to concerns raised by financial industry representatives during the Economic Growth and Regulatory Paperwork Reduction Act review process that adjustments have not been made to the current thresholds despite increases in property values and a scarcity of appraisers in rural areas. FDIC Chairman Martin J. Gruenberg issued a statement announcing that the proposal will significantly reduce the number of transactions requiring an appraisal. Evaluations, rather than appraisals, would now be required for commercial real estate transactions at or below the proposed threshold.
Comments on the proposed rule will be accepted for 60 days from date of publication in the Federal Register.
On May 9, Boston Fed President Eric S. Rosengren delivered a speech entitled “Trends in Commercial Real Estate” at a conference in New York. Mr. Rosengren’s remarks addressed a variety of factors influencing the market, analyzing favorable conditions as well as potential concerns.
Mr. Rosengren noted the “tailwinds” that have allowed for rising commercial real estate valuations, including low and stable inflation, accommodative monetary policy, and the relative economic strength in the U.S. compared with the rest of the world. In addition, with respect to multifamily commercial real estate in particular, Mr. Rosengren discussed the positive impact of several broader societal trends – including later marriage age, “greater urbanization and a preference among the large cohort of millennials to seek multifamily accommodations.” The Boston Fed President cautioned, however, that the conditions may not warrant the extent of the price increase in the market, and pointed to the “significant exposures” that leveraged institutions and the GSEs—whose holdings include significant guarantees of multifamily loans— have to commercial real estate. He also noted that the commercial real estate market could suffer further shock if regulatory and legislative proposals require the GSEs to reduce their holdings of multifamily loans.
The California legislature amended the California Finance Lenders Law (CFLL) allowing persons to make one commercial loan in a 12-month period without obtaining a license. This change effectively reenacts a de minimis exemption that was repealed in 2014, and is effective January 1, 2017 through January 1, 2022.
Effective September 28, 2016, the implementing regulations to the CFLL and California Residential Mortgage Lending Act (CRMLA) were amended such that subsidiaries and affiliates of exempt institutions are no longer exempt, by nature of this association, from the licensing requirements with respect to consumer and residential mortgage loans. The Department of Business Oversight filed the action to reverse through regulation previous Commissioner opinions that interpreted licensing exemptions under the CFLL and CRMLA to apply broadly to include subsidiaries of exempt financial institutions.
The definition of a lender under the CRMLA was also amended and now includes a person, other than a natural person, and a natural person who is also an independent contractor, who engages in the activities of a loan processor or underwriter for residential mortgage loans, but does not solicit loan applicants, originate mortgage loans, or fund mortgage loans. Further, the Commissioner may require a licensee who is engaged in the processing or underwriting of residential mortgage loans to continuously maintain a minimum tangible net worth in an amount that is greater than $250,000, but that does not exceed the net worth required of an approved lender under the Federal Housing Administration.