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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

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  • FDIC orders neobank to stop fraudulent deposit insurance representations

    On March 27, the FDIC sent a letter to a neobank demanding that it stop making false or misleading representations about FDIC deposit insurance and take immediate corrective action to address these statements. The FDIC maintained that the neobank and/or its officers made false and misleading statements in English and Spanish suggesting that it is FDIC-insured and that FDIC insurance will protect customers’ cryptocurrency assets. The FDIC explained in the letter that not only is the neobank not FDIC-insured, the FDIC does not insure crypto assets. “By not distinguishing between US-dollar deposits and crypto assets, the statements imply FDIC insurance coverage applies to all customer funds (including crypto assets),” the letter said. Moreover, the neobank also failed to “clearly and conspicuously identify an insured deposit institution for placement of deposits,” the FDIC said in its announcement. Under the Federal Deposit Insurance Act, the announcement added, persons are prohibited “from representing or implying that an uninsured product is FDIC-insured or from knowingly misrepresenting the extent and manner of deposit insurance.” The FDIC requested a response within 15 days.

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues FDIC Deposit Insurance Federal Deposit Insurance Act

  • FDIC orders entities to stop making fraudulent deposit insurance representations

    On February 15, the FDIC sent letters to four entities demanding that they stop making false or misleading representations about FDIC deposit insurance. Letters were sent to a cryptocurrency exchange and to a nonbank financial services provider demanding that the entities cease and desist from making false and misleading statements about FDIC deposit insurance and take immediate corrective action to address these statements. The FDIC also sent letters to two websites ordering them to remove similar false and misleading statements claiming that the crypto exchange and the nonbank financial services provider are FDIC-insured and that FDIC insurance will protect customers’ cryptocurrency or protect customers in the event of the nonbank’s failure. Under the Federal Deposit Insurance Act, persons are prohibited “from representing or implying that an uninsured product is FDIC-insured or from knowingly misrepresenting the extent and manner of deposit insurance.”

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues FDIC Deposit Insurance Cryptocurrency Digital Assets Nonbank FDI Act

  • FDIC proposes signage amendments, issues revised guide on supervisory appeals process

    On December 13, the FDIC held a meeting, during which board members approved a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to modernize and amend the rules “governing the use of the official FDIC sign and insured depository institutions’ (IDIs) advertising statements to reflect how depositors do business with IDIs today, including through digital and mobile channels.” According to the FDIC’s announcement, the NPRM would amend part 328 of its regulations by updating the requirements for when the FDIC’s official sign can be displayed. Institutions would also be required to use signs that differentiate insured deposits from non-deposit products across banking channels and provide disclosures to consumers alerting them to when certain financial products are not insured by the FDIC, are not considered deposits, and may lose value.

    Acting Chairman Martin Gruenberg noted that there have not been major changes to these rules since 2006. FDIC board member and CFPB Director Rohit Chopra issued a statement in support of the NPRM, noting that the financial sector has evolved significantly since 2006, and “[b]anks increasingly offer uninsured products, physical branches look different, more than 65% of banked households primarily bank online or through their mobile phone, and convoluted bank-nonbank partnerships have proliferated.” He specifically highlighted several of the proposed changes, including: (i) requiring banks to physically segregate the parts of the branch used for accepting insured deposits from other areas where uninsured products are offered; (ii) requiring banks to display digital FDIC signs on their websites and mobile apps, including clear notifications on relevant pages where uninsured products are offered; (iii) requiring disclosures that deposit insurance does not protect against the failure of nonbanks and, if relevant, that pass-through deposit insurance coverage is not automatic or certain; and (iv) clarifying that crypto assets are uninsured, non-deposit products. Comments on the NPRM are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

    On the same day, the FDIC adopted proposed changes to the Guidelines for Appeals of Material Supervisory Determinations. The board solicited public comments in October on the proposed changes (covered by InfoBytes here). The revised Guidelines add the agency’s ombudsman to the Supervision Appeals Review Committee (SARC) as a non-voting member (the ombudsman will be responsible for monitoring the supervision process after a financial institution submits an appeal and must periodically report to the board on these matters). Materials under consideration by the SARC will have to be shared with both parties to the appeal (subject to applicable legal limitations on disclosure), while financial institutions will be allowed to request a stay of material supervisory determination during a pending appeal. Additionally, the division director is given the discretion to grant a stay or grant a stay subject to certain conditions, and institutions will be provided decisions in writing regarding a stay. The revised Guidelines take effect immediately.

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues Agency Rule-Making & Guidance FDIC Supervision Deposit Insurance Appeals

  • FDIC raises deposit insurance assessment rates

    On October 18, the FDIC Board of Directors approved the adoption of a final rule to increase the initial base deposit insurance assessment rate schedules uniformly by two basis points beginning with the first quarterly assessment period of 2023. (See also FDIC fact sheet here.) The FDIC said that after considering comments and updated analysis and projections, the increase in assessment rates was adopted without change from when it was proposed in June (covered by InfoBytes here). The FDIC emphasized that the increased assessment revenue is intended to increase the likelihood that the reserve ratio of the Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) reaches the statutory minimum of 1.35 percent by the mandated deadline of September 30, 2028, while also reducing the likelihood that the FDIC would need to consider a potentially pro-cyclical assessment rate increase where it raises assessments when banking and economic conditions may be less favorable. This increase “is projected to have an insignificant effect on institutions’ capital levels, is estimated to reduce income slightly by annual average of 1.2 percent, and should not impact lending or credit availability in any meaningful way,” the FDIC said. Concurrently, the FDIC maintained the Designated Reserve Ratio for the DIF at two percent for 2023.

    Acting Chairman Martin J. Gruenberg stressed that it “is better to take prudent but modest action earlier in the statutory 8-year period to reach the minimum reserve ratio, than to delay and potentially have to consider a pro-cyclical assessment increase.” CFPB Director and FDIC Board Member Rohit Chopra also chimed in, saying that while he voted in favor of finalizing the deposit insurance rate increase, there are a number of changes that must be made over the long term to deposit insurance assessment policies. These include (i) finding ways for banks that pose the most risk to the DIF “to pay more, relative to smaller institutions where the likelihood of large losses to the Fund are tiny”; (ii) building a framework to ensure assessment rate changes are countercyclical where premiums are adjusted “upward and downward based on economic conditions, recent industry profits, and other appropriate indicators”; and (iii) developing “a framework that relies less on ad-hoc adjustments and more on a systematized formula” based on specific quantitative factors.

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues Agency Rule-Making & Guidance FDIC CFPB Deposit Insurance

  • FDIC issues final rule on troubled debt restructuring accounting standards

    On October 18, the FDIC published a final rule in the Federal Register to incorporate updated accounting standards in the risk-based deposit insurance assessment system applicable to all large and highly complex insured depository institutions. According to the FDIC, the final rule adds a new term, “modifications to borrowers experiencing financial difficulty,” to two financial measures—the underperforming assets ratio and the higher-risk assets ratio—that are used to determine deposit insurance assessments for large and highly complex insured depository institutions.

    Bank Regulatory Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Issues FDIC Deposit Insurance

  • District Court denies request to reverse summary judgment in FDIA suit

    Courts

    On August 29, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania denied a consumer plaintiff’s request to reconsider its summary judgment order against him in a Federal Deposit Insurance Act (FDIA) suit. According to the opinion, the plaintiff accrued debt to a federally-insured, state-chartered bank, which had then assigned that debt to defendants, who were not state-chartered, federally-insured banks. The plaintiff’s debt included interest charges that had accrued at an annual rate between 24.99 percent and 25.99 percent, which the plaintiff argued could not be collected by defendants because the interest exceeded the six percent allowed under Pennsylvania's usury law. The court ruled in favor of the defendants, relying on a recently promulgated FDIC rule that determined that state usury laws are preempted by section 27 of the FDIA in cases where state usury law interferes with state-chartered, federally-insured banks' ability to make loans or when they interfere with a state-chartered, federally-insured bank’s assignee’s efforts to collect on those loans. The plaintiff requested the reconsideration of the district court's summary judgment decision and filed a notice of appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. In his motion for reconsideration, the plaintiff argued that the court’s previous summary judgment decision was “erroneous” because: (i) the 3rd Circuit held in In re: Community Bank of Northern Virginia that “the FDIA unambiguously excludes non-bank purchasers of debt from its coverage and that deference to the FDIC’s contrary interpretation would, therefore, be inappropriate”; (ii) the FDIC’s rule cannot apply to his debts because such an application would be impermissibly retroactive; and (iii) LIPL fits within the FDIC rule’s exception for “licensing or regulatory requirements.”

    The court denied the plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration, holding that the plaintiff “failed to identify an appropriate basis for reconsideration,” as the consumer’s arguments are “either a new argument that could have been presented before judgment was entered or a reprisal of an argument that the Court addressed in its original decision.” The court further noted that it would be “inappropriate for the Court to grant a motion to reconsider under either of those circumstances.” The court went on to determine that the new arguments advanced by the plaintiff were unpersuasive in any event, finding that the 3rd Circuit had not held section 27 of the FDIA to be unambiguous in its meaning and that application of the FDIC’s rule did not create an impermissible retroactive effect.

    Courts State Issues Interest Deposit Insurance Usury Third Circuit Appellate Federal Deposit Insurance Act Pennsylvania Consumer Finance

  • FDIC examines effects of insurance premiums on bank lending

    Recently, the FDIC’s Center for Financial Research released a working paper examining the procyclical effects of FDIC insurance premiums on bank lending. Using confidential FDIC data from the 2008-2009 financial crisis, the FDIC analyzed procyclical deposit insurance premium schedules and bank lending. Among other things, the study found that the lending growth rate decreased 1.6 percent in the quarter after a seven basis-point increase in deposit insurance premiums. The study also found that this effect was exaggerated for banks with less than $100 million in assets who experienced a 2 percent decrease in lending growth rates. According to the FDIC, the working paper “suggest[ed] that deposit insurance premiums, which have been relatively overlooked in the procyclicality discussion, can be a significant driver of bank credit procyclicality.” The FDIC also noted that “changes in deposit insurance premiums can influence the real economy through the bank lending channel,” and suggested that “there may be costs to raising deposit insurance premiums that should be considered, particularly during a crisis.” The working paper highlighted that throughout its long history, “the FDIC has adapted its approach to setting deposit insurance premiums in response to an evolving banking system” and has recently implemented changes that address some procyclicality concerns. These changes include the use of scorecards for large banks to determine assessment rates derived from data showing how each institution fared during the financial crisis, updating of the pricing structure for established small banks, and the indefinite suspension of dividends under the Deposit Insurance Fund management plan “to increase the probability that the reserve ratio will reach a level sufficient to withstand a future crisis.” The working paper concludes that “[t]hese efforts will likely reduce the risk of major assessment-rate increases during future economic downturns.”

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues FDIC Deposit Insurance Bank Lending

  • FDIC issues CDO against five crypto companies

    On August 19, the FDIC issued letters (see here, here, here, here, and here) to five companies demanding that they cease and desist from making crypto-related false and misleading statements regarding their FDIC deposit insurance status and take immediate corrective action to address these false statements. The FDIC noted that “each of these companies made false representations—including on their websites and social media accounts—stating or suggesting that certain crypto-related products are FDIC-insured or that stocks held in brokerage accounts are FDIC-insured.” Specifically, the FDIC noted that “a company offering a so-called cryptocurrency also registered a domain name that suggests affiliation with or endorsement by the FDIC,” calling such representations “false and misleading.” The FDIC said that the companies’ actions violated the FDI Act, which “prohibits any person from representing or implying that an uninsured product is FDIC–insured or from knowingly misrepresenting the extent and manner of deposit insurance,” and “further prohibits companies from implying that their products are FDIC–insured by using ‘FDIC’ in the company’s name, advertisements, or other documents.” The FDI Act authorizes the FDIC to enforce this prohibition against any person. The FDIC demanded that the companies take corrective actions by removing the misrepresentations or false statements and providing written confirmation to the FDIC that they have fully complied with the removal request.

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues Digital Assets Cryptocurrency FDI Act FDIC Deposit Insurance

  • FDIC, Fed issue CDO against crypto brokerage firm

    On July 28, the FDIC and the Federal Reserve Board issued a joint letter demanding that a crypto brokerage firm cease and desist from making false and misleading statements regarding the company’s FDIC deposit insurance status and take immediate corrective action to address these false statements. The agencies claimed that the firm made false and misleading representations online, including on its website, stating or suggesting that: (i) it is FDIC–insured; (ii) customers who invested with the firm’s cryptocurrency platform would receive FDIC insurance coverage for all funds provided to, and held by, the firm; and (iii) the FDIC would insure customers against the failure of the firm. The FDIC noted that the false and misleading statements Violate the FDIC Act. The FDIC demanded that the firm take corrective actions by removing the misrepresentations or false statements and provide written confirmation to the FDIC and Board of Governors that it has fully complied with the removal request within two days.

    Bank Regulatory FDIC Federal Reserve Cryptocurrency Deposit Insurance FDI Act

  • FDIC issues advisory on crypto companies’ deposit insurance claims

    On July 29, the FDIC announced an advisory addressing certain misrepresentations about FDIC deposit insurance made by some crypto companies. The advisory, among other things, reminded insured banks that they must be aware of how FDIC insurance operates as well as the need to assess, manage, and control risks arising from third-party relationships, including those with crypto companies. The advisory noted that recently “some crypto companies have suspended withdrawals or halted operations," and that in certain cases, "these companies have represented to their customers that their products are eligible for FDIC deposit insurance coverage, which may lead customers to believe, mistakenly, that their money or investments are safe.” In dealing with crypto companies, the agency cautioned that “FDIC-insured banks should confirm and monitor that these companies do not misrepresent the availability of deposit insurance.” The FDIC also issued a Fact Sheet reminding the public that the FDIC only insures deposits held in insured banks and savings associations and only in the event of an insured bank’s failure. The FDIC does not insure assets issued by non-bank entities, such as crypto companies.

    Bank Regulatory FDIC Cryptocurrency Deposit Insurance Digital Assets Third-Party Risk Management Nonbank

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