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  • House passes resolution to nullify SEC’s rule on crypto accounting guidance

    Securities

    On May 8, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H. J. Res. 109, the first step in an attempt to nullify the SEC’s Staff Accounting Bulletin No. 121 (SAB 121) under the Congressional Review Act. SAB 121 describes how the SEC expects entities to account for and disclose their custodial obligations to “safeguard crypto-assets held for their platform users,” and has been in effect since April 11, 2022. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in October 2023, the GAO found SAB 121 was a rule, not guidance, making SAB 121 subject to the Congressional Review Act.

    Securities Accounting SEC Congress Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Congressional Review Act

  • Republicans seek to overturn CFPB small-biz lending rule; Georgia AG says rule is unnecessary and burdensome

    Federal Issues

    Recently, several House Republicans introduced a joint resolution of disapproval (H.J. Res. 66) under the Congressional Review Act to overturn the CFPB’s small business lending rule. As previously covered by InfoBytes, last month the Bureau released its final rule implementing Section 1071 of the Dodd-Frank Act. Effective August 29, the final rule will require financial institutions to collect and provide to the Bureau data on lending to small businesses (defined as an entity with gross revenue under $5 million in its last fiscal year). Both traditional banks and credit unions, as well as non-banks, will be required to collect and disclose data about small business loan recipients’ race, ethnicity, and gender, as well as geographic information, lending decisions, and credit pricing. The final rule prescribes a tiered compliance date schedule, with the earliest compliance date being October 1, 2024, for financial institutions that originate at least 2,500 covered small business loans in both 2022 and 2023 (financial institutions with lower origination amounts have later compliance dates).

    Also opposing the final rule, Georgia Attorney General Christopher M. Carr sent a letter to CFPB Director Chopra requesting that the final rule be rescinded. Carr argued that the final rule places an unnecessary and expensive burden on financial institutions, and that “[w]ith the current uneasiness in the market and a plethora of other challenges facing community banks, now is not the time to require them to gather more information that has absolutely nothing to do with the process of evaluating which applicants are the strongest and most deserving of capital.” Carr further contended that if lending discrimination is a “rampant problem,” the Bureau should use channels already in place to address this issue. Pointing out that states already have their own consumer protection and anti-discrimination statutes in place, Carr argued that the final rule imposes redundant compliance requirements on financial institutions, particularly community banks. Carr asked the Bureau to “allow states to continue to address lending issues as they occur, rather than saddling small businesses with burdensome regulations.”

    Additionally, in April, a group of plaintiffs, including a Texas banking association, filed a lawsuit against the Bureau seeking to invalidate the final rule. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) Plaintiffs argued that the final rule will drive from the market smaller lenders who are not able to effectively comply with the final rule’s “burdensome and overreaching reporting requirements” and decrease the availability of products to customers, including minority and women-owned small businesses.

    Federal Issues State Issues CFPB Small Business Lending U.S. House Congressional Review Act State Attorney General Section 1071 Georgia

  • Republicans seek to overturn student loan relief program

    Federal Issues

    On March 27, Republican lawmakers Representative Bob Good (R-VA) and Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) introduced a joint resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to overturn the Department of Education’s (DOE) student loan debt relief program, which has yet to take effect. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the three-part debt relief plan was announced last August to provide, among other things, up to $20,000 in debt cancellation to Pell Grant recipients with loans held by the DOE, and up to $10,000 in debt cancellation to non-Pell Grant recipients for borrowers making less than $125,000 a year or less than $250,000 for married couples.

    Opponents of the debt relief program immediately filed legal challenges after the plan was introduced last August. On December 1, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the Biden administration’s appeal of an injunction entered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit that temporarily prohibited the Secretary of Education from discharging any federal loans under the agency’s student debt relief plan (covered by InfoBytes here). In a brief unsigned order, the Supreme Court deferred the Biden administration’s application to vacate, pending oral argument. Shortly after, the Supreme Court also granted a petition for certiorari in a challenge currently pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, announcing it will consider whether the respondents (individuals whose loans are ineligible for debt forgiveness under the plan) have Article III standing to bring the challenge, as well as whether the DOE’s debt relief plan is “statutorily authorized” and was “adopted in a procedurally proper manner” (covered by InfoBytes here). The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in both cases at the end of February.

    Good noted in his announcement that more than 120 members of the House signed an amicus brief expressing concerns about the constitutionality of the debt relief program. And last month, the Government Accountability Office issued a letter of opinion stating that the final waivers and modification rules submitted by the DOE last October to streamline and improve targeted debt relief programs (covered by InfoBytes here) constitute rules under the CRA and shall have no force or affect.

    Federal Issues Student Lending Debt Cancellation Congressional Review Act Congress Debt Relief GAO

  • CRS report raises privacy concerns regarding digital wallets

    Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security

    On April 18, the Congressional Research Service released an overview of digital wallet technology and related cybersecurity, data privacy and consumer protection policy considerations. Digital wallets are software applications that store payment or account details to facilitate traditional payments using bank and credit card details, and also cover transfers from consumers’ bank accounts to retailers and peer-to-peer and cryptocurrency transactions. One issue the report identified is that companies that offer digital wallets and payment companies often collect information about users and may share data with affiliates and nonaffiliates unless users opt out. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the CFPB is developing proposed rulemaking around sharing consumer financial data, but it remains unclear whether the rules would apply to digital wallet companies. The report also stressed that because funds stored on digital wallets are not deposits, digital wallets are generally not covered by deposit insurance. And while credit, debit, or prepaid cards stored on a mobile wallet are covered by the EFTA and TILA (and implementing Regulations E and Z), those statutes do not currently cover cryptocurrency wallets. The report explained that “[c]ryptocurrency transactions are not subject to Regulation E primarily because these are not bank products and also because cryptocurrencies are not typically used for consumer payments.”

    Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Digital Assets Congressional Review Act Cryptocurrency Consumer Finance

  • Biden signs repeal of OCC’s “true lender” rule

    Federal Issues

    On June 30, President Biden signed S.J. Res. 15, repealing the OCC’s “true lender” rule pursuant to the Congressional Review Act. Issued last year, the final rule amended 12 CFR Part 7 to state that a bank makes a loan when, as of the date of origination, it either (i) is named as the lender in the loan agreement, or (ii) funds the loan. The final rule also provided that if “one bank is named as the lender in the loan agreement and another bank funds the loan, the bank that is named as the lender in the loan agreement makes the loan.” (Covered by InfoBytes here.)

    Federal Issues OCC True Lender U.S. House U.S. Senate Congressional Review Act Fintech Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Predatory Lending Bank Regulatory

  • House votes to repeal OCC’s “true lender” rule

    Federal Issues

    On June 24, the U.S. House passed S.J. Res. 15 by a vote of 218 - 208 to repeal the OCC’s “true lender” rule. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the U.S. Senate passed S.J. Res. 15 last month by vote of 52-47 to invoke the Congressional Review Act and provide for congressional disapproval and invalidation of the final rule. The measure now heads to President Biden who is expected to sign it. Issued last year, the final rule amended 12 CFR Part 7 to state that a bank makes a loan when, as of the date of origination, it either (i) is named as the lender in the loan agreement, or (ii) funds the loan. The final rule also clarified that if “one bank is named as the lender in the loan agreement and another bank funds the loan, the bank that is named as the lender in the loan agreement makes the loan.” (Covered by InfoBytes here.) Acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael Hsu issued a statement after the vote saying the OCC respects Congress’ role in reviewing regulations under the Congressional Review Act. He reaffirmed the OCC’s position that predatory lending has no place in the federal banking system and noted that moving forward the OCC “will consider policy options, consistent with the Congressional Review Act, that protect consumers while expanding financial inclusion.”

    Federal Issues OCC True Lender U.S. House U.S. Senate Congressional Review Act Fintech Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Bank Regulatory

  • Federal regulators discuss Covid-19 responses and priorities

    Federal Issues

    On May 19, the House Financial Services Committee held a hearing entitled “Oversight of Prudential Regulators: Ensuring the Safety, Soundness, Diversity, and Accountability of Depository Institutions.” Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) opened the hearing by expressing her concerns about the “harmful deregulatory actions” taken by the previous administration’s appointees to “roll back key Dodd-Frank reforms and other consumer protections.” She noted, however, that she was pleased that the Senate is moving forward to reverse the OCC’s true lender rule and commented that she has asked House leadership to address the related Congressional Review Act resolution as soon as possible.

    Fed Vice Chair for Supervision Randal K. Quarles provided an update on the Fed’s Covid-19 regulatory and supervisory efforts, noting that the Fed has “worked to align [the Fed’s] emergency actions with other relief efforts as the economic situation improves” and is maintaining or extending some measures to promote continued access to credit. When Congresswoman Velazquez inquired how government programs like the Paycheck Protection Program helped to stabilize businesses and improve the overall economy, Quarles answered, “We would have experienced a much deeper and more durable economic contraction, and would have had more lasting economic scarring with closed businesses and defaulting obligations [] had those programs not been put in place.”

    OCC Comptroller Michael Hsu discussed the agency’s increasing coordination with other federal and state regulators on fintech policy, in addition to OCC efforts to strengthen Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) regulations and address climate change. The OCC has been encouraging innovation, Hsu said, but added that his “broader concern is that these initiatives were not done in full coordination with all stakeholders. Nor do they appear to have been part of a broader strategy related to the regulatory perimeter.” In his written testimony, Hsu emphasized his concerns with providing charters to fintechs, noting that in doing so, it would “convey the benefits of banking without its responsibilities,” but also “that refusing to charter fintechs will encourage growth of another shadow banking system outside the reach of regulators.” Hsu expressed in his oral statement the importance of finding “a way to consider how fintechs and payment platforms fit into the banking system” and emphasized that it must be done in coordination with the FDIC, Fed, and the states. He also explained that “the regulatory community is taking a fragmented agency-by-agency approach to the technology-driven changes taking place today. At the OCC, the focus has been on encouraging responsible innovation. For instance, we updated the framework for chartering national banks and trust companies and interpreted crypto custody services as part of the business of banking.” When Congressman Bill Huizenga (R-MI) asked how the OCC planned to address the “true lender” rule, which would soften the regulations for national banks to sell loans to third parties, Hsu stated that the OCC originally intended to review the rule, but that after the Senate passed S.J.Res. 15 to invoke the Congressional Review Act and provide for congressional disapproval and invalidation of the rule (covered by InfoBytes here), the agency decided to leave it up to congressional deliberation and will monitor it instead.

    FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams discussed, among other things, the FDIC’s policy of granting industrial loan company charters. As previously covered by Infobytes, the agency approved a final rule in December 2020 establishing certain conditions and supervisory standards for the parent companies of industrial banks and ILCs. McWilliams defended the FDIC’s new rule during the hearing, stating it “ensures that the parent company serves as a source of financial strength for the ILC while providing clarity about the FDIC's supervisory expectations of both the ILC and its parent company.”

    NCUA Chairman Todd Harper also outlined agency measures taken in response to the pandemic. Among other things, Harper noted that the NCUA is supporting low-income credit unions through the Community Development Revolving Loan Fund and that the agency is working to strengthen its Consumer Financial Protection Program (CFPP) to ensure fair and equitable access to credit. During the hearing, Harper stated, “there is an increased emphasis on fair lending compliance, and agency staff are studying methods for improving consumer financial protection supervision for the largest credit unions not primarily supervised by the CFPP.”

    Federal Issues House Financial Services Committee OCC CRA Fintech Dodd-Frank FDIC Federal Reserve NCUA SBA Covid-19 True Lender Congressional Review Act Bank Regulatory

  • Senate moves to repeal OCC’s “true lender” rule

    Federal Issues

    On May 11, the U.S. Senate passed S.J. Res. 15 by a vote of 52 - 47 to invoke the Congressional Review Act and provide for congressional disapproval and invalidation of the OCC’s “true lender" rule. Issued last year, the final rule amended 12 CFR Part 7 to state that a bank makes a loan when, as of the date of origination, it either (i) is named as the lender in the loan agreement or (ii) funds the loan. The final rule also clarified that if “one bank is named as the lender in the loan agreement and another bank funds the loan, the bank that is named as the lender in the loan agreement makes the loan.” (Covered by InfoBytes here.) In applauding the passage of the resolution, Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), who introduced S.J. Res. 15, stated that “strik[ing] down the ‘Rent-A-Bank’ rule will help prevent predatory lenders from ripping off consumers by charging loan-shark rates under deceptive terms.” He noted that the legislation has support from a broad array of stakeholder and consumer protection groups, including a bipartisan group of state attorneys generals and the Conference of State Bank Supervisors, as previously covered by InfoBytes here.

    Ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) countered, however, that “[w]ithout the rule, the secondary market for these loans would be disrupted, which, again, disproportionately harms lower-income borrowers.” He further added that “[v]oting in favor of the CRA is a direct assault on fintech. It will make it harder for Congress to legislate here. It will make it harder for regulators to issue guidance and rules that promote fintech. Courts will see it as Congress buying into the notion that fintechs are ‘predatory’ lending. And it will scare away state legislatures from promoting fintech.”

    S.J. Res. 15 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

    Federal Issues U.S. Senate OCC True Lender Congressional Review Act Fintech Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Bank Regulatory

  • State AGs urge Congress to rescind OCC’s “true lender” rule

    Federal Issues

    On April 21, a coalition of 26 state attorneys general sent a letter urging Congress to exercise its authority under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) and rescind the OCC’s “True Lender Rule” in order to “safeguard states’ fundamental sovereign rights to protect their citizens from financial abuse.” As previously covered by InfoBytes, the OCC’s final rule amended 12 CFR Part 7 to state that a bank makes a loan when, as of the date of origination, it either (i) is named as the lender in the loan agreement or (ii) funds the loan. The final rule also clarified that if “one bank is named as the lender in the loan agreement and another bank funds the loan, the bank that is named as the lender in the loan agreement makes the loan.” In their letter, the AGs expressed concern that the final rule “establishes a simplistic standard to redefine the meaning of ‘true lender,’” enabling predatory lenders to “circumvent” state interest-rate caps through “rent-a-bank” schemes, which would in turn allow banks to act as lenders in name only while passing state law exemptions for banks to non-bank entities. The letter references a complaint filed by eight state AGs against the OCC in January challenging the final rule (covered by InfoBytes here) and argues that in finalizing the rule the OCC “acted in a manner contrary to centuries of case law [and] the OCC’s own prior interpretation of the law,” and seeks to preempt state usury law and “infringe on the States’ historical police powers and facilitate predatory lending.” 

    In March, both House and Senate Democrats introduced CRA resolutions (see H.J. Res. 35 and S.J. Res. 15) intended to provide for congressional disapproval and invalidation of the OCC’s final rule. The OCC responded on April 14, arguing that “disapproval of the rule would return bank lending relationships to the previous state of legal and regulatory uncertainty, which. . . adversely affects the function of secondary markets and restricts the availability of credit.” The OCC further stated that the final rule is intended to enhance the agency’s ability to supervise bank lending and “does not change bank’s authority to export interest rates” nor does it “permit national banks to charge whatever rate they like” as both federal and state-chartered banks are required to conform to applicable interest rate limits. “Disparities of interest rates from state to state result from differences in the state laws that impose these caps, not OCC rules or actions,” the OCC stressed, adding that “[s]tates retain the authority to set interest rates.” However, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors sent a letter to Congress in support of S.J. Res. 15, disagreeing with the OCC and noting that the final rule, if it stands, would “eviscerate the power of state interest rate caps and rid state regulators of the most effective tool to protect consumers from such predatory lending.”

    Federal Issues OCC True Lender State Attorney General U.S. House U.S. Senate Agency Rule-Making & Guidance State Issues Valid When Made Congressional Review Act Bank Regulatory

  • House approves resolution to reverse OCC’s CRA rule

    Federal Issues

    On June 29, the U.S. House of Representatives approved resolution H.J. 90, along party lines, which would reverse the OCC’s final rule (covered by a Buckley Special Alert) to modernize the regulatory framework implementing the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). As previously covered by InfoBytes, Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Chair of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions, Gregory Meeks (D-NY) introduced the resolution, with Waters criticizing the OCC’s decision to move forward with the rule “despite the Federal Reserve and the FDIC—the other regulatory agencies responsible for enforcing CRA—declining to join in the rulemaking.” While the resolution is unlikely to pass the Senate, the White House released a Statement of Administration Policy, which opposes the resolution and states that the President’s advisors will recommend he veto the action.

    Federal Issues House Financial Services Committee CRA Congressional Review Act OCC Agency Rule-Making & Guidance U.S. House White House

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