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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.”
On May 17, Illinois enacted the Emergency Housing Rental Assistance Program Act. Among other things, the law details how the state will distribute funds received through the Federal Emergency Rental Assistance program. The law also provides for the sealing of residential eviction records through August 2022 and places judicial sales of property on hold until July 31, 2021.
On May 11, FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams spoke at the Federalist Society Conference about the Dodd-Frank Act in a post Covid-19 environment and the future of financial regulation. Among other topics, McWilliams emphasized the importance of promoting innovation through inclusion, resilience, amplification, and protecting the future of the banking sector. McWilliams pointed out that “alternative data and AI can be especially important for small businesses, such as sole proprietorships and smaller companies owned by women and minorities, which often do not have a long credit history” and that “these novel measures of creditworthiness, like income streams, can provide critical access to capital” that otherwise may not be possible to access. McWilliams also discussed an interagency request for information announced by the FDIC and other regulators in March (covered by InfoBytes here), which seeks input on financial institutions’ use of AI and asks whether additional regulatory clarity may be helpful. McWilliams also added that rapid prototyping helps initiate effective reporting of more granular data for banks. Additionally, McWilliams addressed agency’s efforts to expand fintech partnerships through several initiatives intended to facilitate cooperation between fintech groups and banks to promote accessibility to new customers and offer new products. Concerning the ability to confront the direct cost of developing and deploying technology at any one institution, McWilliams added that “there are things that we can do to foster innovation across all banks and to reduce the regulatory cost of innovation.”
On May 14, the Federal Reserve Board announced the third extension of a temporary exception from the requirements of section 22(h) of the Federal Reserve Act and corresponding provisions of Regulation O to allow certain bank directors and shareholders to apply for Small Business Administration (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans from their affiliated banks. The extension is effective immediately and applies to PPP loans made from March 31 through June 30. If the PPP is extended, the rule change will ultimately end on March 31, 2022. The Fed reiterated that any PPP loans extended to bank directors and shareholders must be consistent with SBA’s PPP lending restrictions and done without favoritism from the bank. The original extension was announced on April 17 (covered by InfoBytes here).
On May 14, the Federal Reserve’s Division of Consumer and Community Affairs issued a letter informing supervised financial institutions that HMDA quarterly reporting will resume beginning with institutions’ 2021 first quarter data, due on or before May 31, 2021, for all covered loans and applications with a final action taken date between January 1 and March 31, 2021. As previously covered by InfoBytes, last year the Fed eased quarterly HMDA reporting requirements during the Covid-19 pandemic in order to provide supervised institutions with flexibility to reallocate resources to serving customers. The Fed’s newest letter, which supersedes previous guidance, notes that it “does not intend to cite in an examination or initiate an enforcement action against any entity that did not make the quarterly filing for data collected in 2020.”
On May 13, the governor of New York signed legislation (S.5923-A/A.6617-A) that amends the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules to exempt “emergency relief funds” from being used to satisfy a money judgement, except in limited instances. This includes “tax refunds, recovery rebates, refundable tax credits, and any advances of any tax credits, under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act of 2020 (CARES Act), Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, and American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA).” A banking institution is also barred from asserting, claiming, or exercising any right of set off against these funds.
On May 13, the Nevada Department of Business of Industry, Division of Financial Institutions (“NFID”) extended its provisional guidance allowing employees of licensees to work from home (previously covered here, here, here, and here) until July 31, 2021. The NFID stated that they will not extend the work from home provisional guidance, and that licensees should plan accordingly.
California announces additional small business grants as part of its broader California Comeback Plan
On May 13, California’s Governor Gavin Newsom announced a new small business relief program, consisting of both business grants and tax credits, as a part of the broader “California Comeback Plan.” The program adds an additional $1.5 billion in grants to the already announced $2.5 billion, and provides $6.2 billion in tax credits available to small businesses.
On May 11, the CFPB urged the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee to deny a request for a temporary injunction of a CFPB rule that would require all landlords to disclose to tenants federal protections put in place as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, arguing that the rule does not require false speech and is justified by the First Amendment. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the plaintiffs, including members of the National Association of Residential Property Managers, sued the CFPB asserting the Bureau’s recently issued interim final rule (IFR) violates their First Amendment rights. The IFR amended Regulation F to require debt collectors to provide tenants clear and conspicuous written notice alerting them of their rights under the CDC’s moratorium on evictions in response to the Covid-19 pandemic (covered by InfoBytes here). The plaintiffs alleged that the IFR violates the First Amendment because it “mandates untrue speech and encourages plainly misleading speech” by requiring disclosures about a moratorium that has been challenged or invalidated by several federal courts, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The CFPB asked the court not to grant the plaintiffs’ request for the temporary injunction, pointing out that the “plaintiffs fail to demonstrate that they are entitled to the extraordinary relief they seek.” The brief also notes that “requiring debt collectors to provide routine, factual notification of rights or legal protections that consumers ‘may’ have, in jurisdictions where the CDC Order applies, does not compel false speech and plainly passes First Amendment muster.”
On May 7, Michael J. Hsu was designated acting Comptroller of the Currency, effective May 10. Previously, Hsu served as an associate director in the Federal Reserve’s Division of Supervision and Regulation where he led the Large Institution Supervision Coordinating Committee Program, which supervises global systemically important banking companies operating in the U.S. Hsu’s career over the past 19 years also included positions at the SEC, Treasury Department, and International Monetary Fund. In accepting the position, Hsu stated his focus “will be on solving urgent problems and addressing pressing issues until the 32nd Comptroller is confirmed.”
Hsu issued a statement to agency staff the same day outlining planned areas of focus including:
- Addressing the “disproportionate impact” of the Covid-19 pandemic on rural and minority communities;
- Confronting the risks and challenges of climate change, as well as the acceleration of technological development and digitization in the industry;
- Understanding how “complacency about risk-taking is of increasing supervisory concern as [the industry enters] a phase of growth and heightened competition”; and
- Reviewing key regulatory standards, as well as other matters pending before the agency, which will take into account both external and internal views.
- APPROVED Webcast: CFL license transition to NMLS
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Justice for all: Achieving racial equity through fair lending” at CBA Live
- Warren W. Traiger to discuss “On the horizon for CRA modernization” at CBA Live
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Government investigations, and compliance 2021 trends” at the Corporate Counsel Women of Color Career Strategies Conference
- Max Bonici to discuss “BSA/AML trends: What to expect with the implementation of the AML Act of 2020” at the American Bar Association Banking Law Fall Meeting