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On July 29, the California, Illinois, and New York attorneys general filed an action in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California challenging the OCC’s valid-when-made rule, arguing the rule “impermissibly preempts state law.” As previously covered by a Buckley Special Alert, on June 2 the OCC issued a final rule designed to effectively reverse the Second Circuit’s 2015 Madden v. Midland Funding decision. The “true lender” rule provides that “[i]nterest on a loan that is permissible under [12 U.S.C. 85 for national bank or 12 U.S.C 1463(g)(1) for federal thrifts] shall not be affected by the sale, assignment, or other transfer of the loan.”
The attorneys general argue in their complaint that the rule is “contrary to the plain language” of section 85 (and section 1463(g)(1)) and “contravenes the judgment of Congress,” which declined to extend preemption to non-banks. Moreover, the complaint asserts that the OCC disregarded congressional procedures for preemption by failing to perform a case-by-case review of state laws and not consulting with the CFPB before “preempting such a state consumer-protection law.” The attorneys general further contend that the OCC “failed to give meaningful consideration” to the commentary received regarding the rule essentially enabling “‘rent-a-bank’ schemes.” The result of the OCC’s actions, according to the attorneys general, is a rule that would allow “predatory lenders to evade state law by partnering with a federally chartered bank to originate loans exempt from state interest-rate caps.” These structures “have long troubled state law-enforcement efforts,” according to the complaint, and the rule will exacerbate these issues by “decreas[ing] licensing fees received by the States and increase[ing] the cost and burden of future supervisory, investigative, and law-enforcement efforts by the States.”
The complaint requests the court declare that the OCC violated the Administrative Procedures Act in issuing the rule and hold the rule unlawful.
On July 20, the OCC issued a proposed rule (see also Bulletin 2020-70) that addresses when a national bank or federal savings association (bank) is the “true lender” in the context of a partnership between a bank and a third party in order to clarify uncertainties about the legal framework that applies. Specifically, the proposed rule amends 12 CFR part 7 to state that “a bank makes a loan when, as of the date of origination, it (i) is named as lender in the loan agreement or (ii) funds the loan.” The OCC notes that the proposal intends to cover situations where the bank “has a predominant economic interest in the loan,” as the original funder, even if it is not “the named lender in the loan agreement as of the date of origination.”
In response, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) issued a statement opposing the proposal, stating that “the true lender doctrine is and should remain a matter of state law.”
As previously covered by InfoBytes, the OCC and the FDIC recently issued final rules clarifying that whether interest on a loan is permissible under federal law is determined at the time the loan is made and is not affected by the sale, assignment, or other transfer of the loan, effectively reversing the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit’s 2015 Madden v. Midland Funding decision. At the time, both agencies chose not to address the “true lender” issue.
On June 25, the FDIC issued a final rule clarifying that whether interest on a loan is permissible under the Federal Deposit Insurance Act is determined at the time the loan is made and is not affected by the sale, assignment, or other transfer of the loan. The FDIC’s final rule effectively reverses the Second Circuit’s 2015 Madden v. Midland Funding decision as applicable to state banks and follows the OCC’s issuance of a similar rule earlier this month for national charters. Specifically, the FDIC’s final rule states that, “[w]hether interest on a loan is permissible under section 27 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act is determined as of the date the loan was made. . . [and] shall not be affected by a change in State law, a change in the relevant commercial paper rate after the loan was made, or the sale, assignment, or other transfer of the loan, in whole or in part.” Additionally, the FDIC rule mirrors the OCC in specifying that the rule does “not address the question of whether a State bank. . .is a real party in interest with respect to a loan or has an economic interest in the loan under state law, e.g. which entity is the ‘true lender.’” Details on the effect of these rules can be found in Buckley’s Special Alert on the OCC’s issuance.
On May 29, Acting Comptroller of the Currency Brian P. Brooks issued a statement focusing on four priorities intended to help meet the challenges facing banks today. As previously covered by InfoBytes, Brooks was named Acting Comptroller following the departure of former Comptroller Joseph Otting. These priorities include building upon responsible innovation to provide regulatory certainty, flexible frameworks, and oversight that will allow banks to “evolve and capitalize on technology and innovation to deliver better products and services, to operate more efficiently, and to reduce risk in the system.” Brooks reiterated that the OCC has the authority to issue bank charters to companies engaged in “the business of banking on a national scale, including taking deposits, lending money, or paying checks,” and emphasized that the OCC will work to “clarify what true lender means, to underscore that the terms of a lawfully made contract remain valid for the duration of that contract even if it is sold by a bank to another investor, and to specify what the parameters of the ‘fintech charter’ and other special purpose charters should be.” The same day the OCC issued a final rule (covered by a Buckley Special Alert), which establishes that when a bank transfers a loan, the interest rate permissible before the transfer will still be valid after the transfer.
Among other topics, Brook also discussed the OCC’s recent issuance of a final rule to strengthen the Community Reinvestment Act (covered by a Buckley Special Alert), stating that the OCC will work to ensure that banks provide “fair access” to all customers and stressing that the agency “should not tolerate lawful entities being denied access to our federal banking system based on their popularity among a powerful few.”
On Acting Comptroller of the Currency Brian Brooks’ first day in that role, the OCC issued a final rule designed to effectively reverse the Second Circuit’s 2015 Madden v. Midland Funding decision. As published in yesterday’s Federal Register, the rule, titled “Permissible Interest on Loans that are Sold, Assigned, or Otherwise Transferred,” provides that “[i]nterest on a loan that is permissible under [12 U.S.C. 85 for national bank or 12 U.S.C 1463(g)(1) for federal thrifts] shall not be affected by the sale, assignment, or other transfer of the loan.” This rule contrasts with the Madden decision’s conclusion that a purchaser of a loan originated by a national bank could not charge interest at the rate permissible for the bank if that rate would be impermissible under the lower usury cap applicable to the purchaser. More specifically, the Madden court found that subjecting assignees to state usury law under these circumstances does not “significantly interfere” with the exercise of national bank powers -- the general preemption standard set forth in the Dodd Frank Act.
On February 5, the House Financial Services Committee held a hearing titled “Rent-A-Bank Schemes and New Debt Traps: Assessing Efforts to Evade State Consumer Protections and Interest Rate Caps” to discuss policies relating to state interest rate caps and permissible interest rates on small dollar loans such as payday and car-title loans. As previously covered by a Buckley Special Alert, in November, the OCC and the FDIC proposed rules meant to override the 2015 Madden v. Midland funding decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and reinforce that when a national bank or savings association, or state chartered bank, transfers a loan, the permissible interest rate after the transfer is the same as it was prior to the transfer. In January, however, a group of attorneys general from 21 states and the District of Columbia submitted a comment letter to the OCC claiming the proposed rule would encourage predatory lending through “rent-a-bank schemes.” (Covered by InfoBytes here.) During the hearing, Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), expressed concern that the two agency proposals would harm consumers by allowing non-banks to partner with banks and enable non-bank lenders to “peddle harmful short-term, triple-digit interest rate loans.” Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) echoed that concern when she suggested that “rent-a-bank” schemes allow non-banks to dodge state interest rate laws. Many Republicans had views differing from those expressed by Tlaib and Waters. North Carolina Representative Patrick McHenry remarked that the proposals from the OCC and the FDIC merely formalized the “valid when made” rule that had been in use for over a century. At the hearing, HR 5050, which would cap federal interest rates on certain small loans at 36 percent, was also discussed, with several Democrats stressing that the cap may negatively affect credit availability to some consumers.
On January 21, a bipartisan collation of attorneys general from 21 states and the District of Columbia, along with the Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection, submitted a comment letter in response to the OCC’s proposed rule to clarify that when a national bank or savings association sells, assigns, or otherwise transfers a loan, the interest permissible prior to the transfer continues to be permissible following the transfer. (See Buckley Special Alert on the proposed rule.) The coalition, led by California, Illinois, and New York, urges the OCC to withdraw the proposed rule. Among their concerns, the AGs argue that the OCC’s proposal conflicts with the National Bank Act and Dodd-Frank, exceeds the OCC’s statutory authority, and is in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. Specifically, the AGs claim that the proposed rule conflicts with National Bank Act (NBA) provisions that grant benefits of federal preemption only to national banks and no one else. Moreover, the AGs assert that Congress explicitly stated in Dodd-Frank that “that the benefits of federal preemption provided by the NBA accrue only to [n]ational [b]anks,” (emphasis in original) and argue that the proposed rule would contravene “this important limitation” and “cloak non-banks in [the NBA’s] preemptive power.” Moreover, the NBA sections say “nothing about interest chargeable by assignees, transferees, or purchasers of bank loans,” the AGs write.
The AGs also argue that the proposed rule would facilitate predatory “rent-a-bank schemes” by allowing non-bank entities to ignore state interest rate caps and usury laws. “The OCC has not addressed, even summarily, how the [p]roposed [r]ule, if adopted, will serve to incentivize and sanction predatory rent-a-bank schemes,” the AGs state. “This failure to consider the substantial negative consequences this rule would have on consumer financial protection across the country renders the OCC’s [p]roposed [r]ule arbitrary and capricious.” Furthermore, the AGs contend that the OCC’s proposed rule contains no factual findings or reasoned analysis to support its proposal to extend NBA preemption to all non-bank entities that purchase loans from national banks. “[T]his is beyond the agency’s power,” the AGs argue, asserting that “[t]he OCC simply ‘may not rewrite clear statutory terms to suit its own sense of how the statute should operate.’”
On November 21, six Democratic Senators wrote to OCC Comptroller Joseph Otting and FDIC Chairman Jelena Williams to strongly oppose recent proposed rules by the agencies (see OCC notice here and FDIC notice here). As previously covered by a Buckley Special Alert, the OCC and FDIC proposed rules reassert the “valid-when-made doctrine,” which states that loan interest that is permissible when the loan is made to a bank remains permissible after the loan is transferred to a nonbank. In the letter, the Senators suggest that the proposed rules enable non-bank lenders to avoid state interest rate limits. According to the letter, the proposed rules would encourage “payday and other non-bank lenders to launder their loans through banks so that they can charge whatever interest rate federally-regulated banks may charge.” Additionally, the letter urges both agencies to consider their past declarations against “rent-a-bank” schemes, and contends that the agencies should not attempt to address Madden v. Midland Funding, LLC, which rejected the valid-when-made doctrine, through rulemaking, but should instead leave such lawmaking to Congress.
On November 18, 2019 the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”) issued a proposed rule to clarify that when a national bank or savings association sells, assigns, or otherwise transfers a loan, the interest permissible prior to the transfer continues to be permissible following the transfer. The very next day, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”) followed suit with respect to state chartered banks. The proposals are intended to address problems created by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Madden v. Midland Funding, LLC, a decision that cast doubt, at least in the Second Circuit states, about the effect of a transfer or assignment on a bank loan’s stated interest rate that was nonusurious when made. Comments on these proposals are due 60 days following publication in the Federal Register, and as noted below, the case for robust banking industry comment is more compelling than is typically the case.
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Click here to read the full special alert.
If you have any questions about the alert or other related issues, please visit our Fintech practice page or contact a Buckley attorney with whom you have worked in the past.
On October 9, the OCC responded to a letter written by 26 Republican members of the House Financial Services Committee urging the agency to update its interpretation of the definition of “interest” under the National Bank Act (NBA) to limit the impact of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit’s 2015 decision in Madden v. Midland Funding, LLC (covered by a Buckley Special Alert here). The representatives’ letter (covered by InfoBytes here) argued that Madden deviated from the longstanding valid-when-made doctrine—which provides that if a contract that is valid (not usurious) when it was made, it cannot be rendered usurious by later acts, including assignment—and has “caused significant uncertainty and disruption in many types of lending programs.” The representatives urged the OCC to prioritize a rulemaking to address the issue. In response, the OCC agreed with the letter’s concerns, and stated that “administrative solutions to mitigate the consequences of the Madden decision may be available.” The OCC noted that it has filed amicus briefs in the past, reiterating the view that Madden was wrongly decided, but did not elaborate any further on potential plans for a rulemaking to address the issue.
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