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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations


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  • Fed Chairman Powell testifies before House Financial Services Committee on Basel III “Endgame,” commercial real estate, and banking capital

    Federal Issues

    On March 6, the House Financial Services Committee held its semi-annual hearing on the Federal Reserve’s Monetary Policy Report, and heard testimony from the Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell a day after the Republican committee members sent a letter to the banking regulators urging withdrawal from the Basel III “Endgame” proposal. Powell discussed the Basel III Endgame proposal comments, the commercial real estate market, and capital requirements, among others.

    On the Basel III “Endgame” proposal, Chairman McHenry (R-NC) asked if the Fed was listening to the comments received and what the status of the rulemaking is moving forward. Powell confirmed that the Fed has received substantive comments in mid-January and had put out the Quantitative Impact Study; the Fed is still analyzing the comments and will soon reach a point where the Fed can begin making decisions. Powell signaled to expect “broad and material changes to the proposal” while expressing confidence that the final proposal will receive support from the Fed and the public.

    Congressman Barr (R-KY), who also questioned the Basel III “Endgame” proposal, asked whether a re-proposal that implemented Basel III in a “capital neutral way” could be achieved without jeopardizing financial stability; Powell responded with “hypothetically, yes.” Then, pointing to a report that found 97 percent of comment letters either opposed or expressed concerns about the proposal, Powell stated “it’s unlike anything I’ve seen.” On technical matters, Barr raised the concern that subjecting different size banks to a one-size-fits-all standard would concentrate the industry, increase risks, and decrease competition. Powell indicated he shared that concern.

    Congressman Himes (D-CT) inquired about the commercial real estate market, specifically if the rapid decline in vacancy rates was a manageable risk. Powell indicated that the risks are manageable but stressed that “[t]here will be some losses by banks” and that the Fed is actively in touch with these banks, mostly small- and medium-sized banks with higher concentrations in this market. Congressman Lynch (D-MA) inquired about the 2023 banking issues and if they were caused in part by the “instantaneous” withdrawals of money from the banks as a proverbial bank run. Powell confirmed that the Fed is working on liquidity rules to change this.

    Congressman Loudermilk (R-GA) inquired about the driving force behind the record-high levels of credit card debt. Powell believed that pure economic growth was the cause, and the number has just scaled up; alternatively, it was because of the stimulus spending from the pandemic. Loudermilk then posed a hypothetical: if there was a rule on restricting lending from banks, if that rule would drive businesses and consumers towards “alternative forms of credit”; Powell said it would, and that would present nonbank lenders with more business. Moreover, Congressman Loudermilk had Powell commit to at most an analysis of how capital proposals affect small business credit access and small-dollar lending before finalizing any proposals.

    Federal Issues House Financial Services Committee Basel

  • House Financial Services Committee holds a hearing to address the “moving target” of CFPB’s recent actions

    Federal Issues

    On March 7, the House Committee on Financial Services held a hearing entitled, “Politicized Financial Regulation and its Impact on Consumer Credit and Community Development” to discuss recent actions and proposals, like mandated fee caps and government price fixing, by federal financial regulatory agencies. During the hearing, Congressman Barr (R-KY) criticized recent regulatory actions by federal authorities, particularly the Biden Administration and the CFPB, which he saw as politically-motivated interventions in the financial sector. He expressed concern over the implementation of fee caps and price controls, like the CFPB’s new rule on credit card late fees (covered by InfoBytes here), which he believed could impact consumer access to credit and competition. Barr argued that these regulations served political interests rather than protecting consumers, dismissing the concept of "junk fees" as undefined and hypocritical as the CFPB charges fees itself. Barr also discussed the need for clear standards in enforcement actions under UDAAP to provide certainty to financial institutions and foster a more inclusive market. He criticized other regulatory proposals, such as the Community Reinvestment Act final rule and the new certification process for the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, for potentially overreaching into the operations of financial institutions.

    Barr contended the timing of the CFPB's most recent rule announcement, which was close to President Biden's State of the Union address, alleged a political agenda rather than an independent regulatory action. A witness policy analyst also shared that using financial regulation for political gain can negatively impact consumer credit. The analyst addressed the CFPB’s recent actions against overdraft fees and cited a May 2023 CFPB report which noted that revenue from overdraft and insufficient fund fees in the fourth quarter of 2022 was $1.5 billion lower than in the fourth quarter of 2019 and that many banks have already adjusted their overdraft practices––making the Bureau’s proposals unwarranted. Witnesses also argued how smaller banks and credit unions do not boast the same revenue nor goals as some larger banks, and that regulations should not be a “one size fits all” model.

    Federal Issues Hearing House Financial Services Committee CFPB Federal Reserve Overdraft

  • House Financial Services Committee urges banking regulators to reconsider aspects of Basel III “Endgame” proposal

    Federal Issues

    On March 5, the Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Patrick McHenry (NC-10), along with all Republican members released a letter to Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, Acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael Hsu, and FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg recommending they each withdraw from the Basel III “Endgame” proposal and identify better objectives with justifications. The Republican members indicated that the proposal received an “unprecedented number of comment letters,” with more than 97 percent receiving a call for withdrawal, re-proposal, or general concern with the proposal’s elements. Further, the letter pointed out that the agency chairs themselves recognized there was an issue, as shown by the agencies’ comment period extension by more than 45 days. While the members noted a strong desire to change the capital rules for financial institutions, they also expressed frustration with the lack of transparency regarding the whole process: “There has been little clarity . . . with Congress or the American people as to when or how the agencies will release the information collected from the banks or seek comment[.]” The Committee’s letter concluded by stating how the proposal is flawed and called for greater clarity on how agencies plan to account for public comments.

    Federal Issues House Financial Services Committee Bank Regulatory Congressional Inquiry Basel

  • House Committee calls for new quantitative analysis from Basel III “Endgame” original proposal

    Federal Issues

    On January 31, the House Financial Services Committee issued a press release after holding its hearing on “Federal Banking Proposals Under the Biden Administration,” which invited two leaders from trade organizations, a lawyer, and a business school professor. The Committee’s main takeaway was that the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking from July 2023, as released by the OCC, Federal Reserve, and FDIC, provides “little quantitative analysis” of the potential economic impacts (covered by InfoBytes, here). This Notice initially opened the comment period for the Basel III “Endgame” meant to revise the capital requirements for large banking organizations.   

    The Committee took the position, through bipartisan agreement, that the Biden Administration “must withdraw” its Basel III “Endgame” implementing proposal and replace it with one that offers a sound and objective economic analysis that is not skewed by politics but supported by data. The Committee supports its position that the Notice provides a “paltry” economic and regulatory analysis by noting that it devotes only 17 out of 1087 pages to the analysis. The press release cited comments from various congressional members, some of whom raised concerns about the proposal’s potential impact on homebuyers and mortgage lending, and the proposal’s potential to disincentivize financing for renewable energy projects. Finally, the Committee linked several members’ comment letters over the past few months.  

    Federal Issues Basel FDIC OCC Federal Reserve Capital Requirements House Financial Services Committee

  • HUD Secretary Fudge confirms interest in eliminating Mortgage Interest Premiums

    Federal Issues

    On January 11, the Secretary for Housing and Urban Development, Marcia Fudge, testified at the House Financial Services Committee hearing on the Oversight of HUD and the FHA. Topics included qualification for housing programs by veterans, HUD efforts to support more affordable housing, and oversight of public housing authorities, among other things.

    Secretary Fudge addressed the possibility of eliminating the Mortgage Insurance Premiums (MIP) from Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgages. Specifically, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) asked Secretary Fudge whether she would be willing to eliminate MIPs, to which Secretary Fudge replied “Yes, I’m willing to look at it.” Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) asked whether FHA insurance could follow the same model as private mortgage insurance, where the product is terminated after a certain amount of payment on the principal of the loan.  In response, the Secretary replied positively with “I would love to see it happen.”

    Federal Issues HUD FHA House Oversight Committee House Financial Services Committee Mortgages Mortgage Insurance Premiums

  • OCC Acting Deputy Comptroller Murphy testifies on OCC’s Office of Financial Technology

    Federal Issues

    On December 5, the Acting Deputy Comptroller of the OCC’s Office of Financial Technology, Donna Murphy, testified before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Digital Assets, Financial Technology and Inclusion. Her testimony focused on the OCC’s supervision and regulation of new and emerging fintech products.

    Created in October 2022, the Office of Financial Technology regulates and supervises all aspects of fintech innovation in the federal banking system, including bank-fintech partnerships, artificial intelligence, and digital assets. Murphy testified that a strong risk management plan against third parties is essential. She referenced the joint guidance issued earlier this year by the OCC, Federal Reserve, and FDIC (previously covered by InfoBytes, here).

    Murphy also discussed the use of artificial intelligence and algorithms in banking, highlighting the many ways they can strengthen safety and soundness, enhance consumer protection, improve compliance, address financial crime, and increase fairness and access to the banking system. However, Murphy highlighted the need for banks to focus on software design, testing, security, and data management when implementing artificial intelligence. Lastly, Murphy iterated the OCC’s commitment to reducing inequality in banking and increasing access to financial services for all. 

    Federal Issues OCC Testimony House Financial Services Committee Digital Assets Fintech

  • NCUA annual report to Congress covers cybersecurity

    Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security

    On June 28, the NCUA released its annual report on cybersecurity and credit union system resilience to the House and Senate banking committees. The report outlines measures the agency has taken to strengthen cybersecurity within the credit union system, outlines significant risks and challenges facing the financial system due to the NCUA’s lack of authority over third-party vendors, and addresses current and emerging threats. Explaining that cybersecurity is one of the NCUA’s top supervisory priorities with cyberattacks being a top-tier risk under the agency’s enterprise risk management program, the report discusses ways the NCUA continues to enhance the cybersecurity resilience of federally insured credit unions (FICUs). Measures include continually improving the agency’s examination program, providing training and support, and implementing a final rule in February, which requires FICUs to report any cyberattacks that disrupt its business operations, vital member services, or a member information system as soon as possible (and no later than 72 hours) after the FICU’s “reasonable belief that it has experienced a cyberattack.” The final rule takes effect September 1. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) The report also raises concerns regarding the NCUA’s lack of authority over third-party vendors that provide services to FICUs. Calling this a “regulatory blind spot” with the potential to create significant risks and challenges, the agency stresses that one of its top requests to Congress is to restore the authority that permits the agency to examine third-party vendors.

    Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security Federal Issues NCUA Credit Union House Financial Services Committee Senate Banking Committee Third-Party

  • McHenry objects to FSOC’s proposed designation framework

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On June 15, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Patrick McHenry sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urging the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC), which Yellen chairs, to “revisit” its proposals on nonbank financial firm risks. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in April, FSOC released a proposed analytic framework for financial stability risks to provide greater public transparency on how it identifies, assesses, and addresses potential risks “regardless of whether the risk stems from activities or firms.” The same day, FSOC also released for public comment proposed interpretive guidance relating to procedures for designating systemically important nonbank financial companies for Federal Reserve supervision and enhanced prudential standards.

    McHenry’s letter raised concerns with FSOC’s decision to evaluate risks based on an entity’s size and not its activities. According to McHenry, FSOC’s April proposals will essentially undo changes it made in 2019, which incorporated principles considering a financial institution’s systematic risk rather than merely its size. In his announcement accompanying the letter, McHenry elaborated on his concerns, stating that “allowing FSOC to extend its supervisory reach beyond prudential institutions to nonbank entities in this way could pose significant regulatory consequences for our financial system.” McHenry claimed these institutions may engage in different activities, thus presenting different risks, and said the proposals do not take this into account. McHenry also argued that expanding the Fed’s oversight jurisdiction is not a “panacea for financial stability.”

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Issues FSOC Department of Treasury Nonbank House Financial Services Committee Supervision

  • Chopra testifies at congressional hearings

    Federal Issues

    On June 13, CFPB Director Rohit Chopra testified before the Senate Banking Committee to discuss the Bureau’s most recent semi-annual report to Congress. Covering the period beginning April 1, 2022 and ending September 30, 2022, the semi-annual report addressed a wide range of issues, including the adoption of significant rules and orders, supervisory and enforcement actions, and actions taken by states relating to federal consumer financial law. The report also stated the Bureau received approximately 1.237 million consumer complaints, for which roughly 75 percent pertained to credit or consumer reporting. With respect to the Bureau’s mandated objectives, Chopra’s prepared statement highlighted rulemaking progress on several topics, including small business lending data collection and PACE lending. He also emphasized the agency’s heightened focus on supervising nonbank financial firms and reiterated that the Bureau will continue to shift its enforcement focus from small businesses to repeat offenders.

    Committee Chair Sherrod Brown (D-OH) praised Chopra’s leadership in his opening statement, highlighting actions taken by the Bureau since Chopra’s last hearing appearance and disagreeing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit’s decision that the agency’s funding authority violates the Constitution’s Appropriations Clause and the separation of powers. However, Ranking Member Tim Scott (R-SC) argued that Chopra “has created uncertainty in the marketplace by attempting to regulate through speeches and blog posts under the guise of ‘clarifying guidance,’” and continues to mislabel payment incentives as “junk fees” or “illegal fees.” Scott also took issue with the Bureau’s small business lending rule and asked why the agency should be trusted to collect a large amount of lending data when the agency itself experienced a data breach when an employee transferred sensitive consumer data to a personal email account without authorization.

    During the hearing, Chopra addressed concerns accusing him of bypassing regulatory review by issuing policy changes through agency guidance and press announcements. “The things we hear from small firms is they really want to know how existing law applies,” Chopra said. “We have so many changes in technology, and these small firms don’t have the ability to hire so many lawyers[,] [s]o I’ve actually continued a practice of my predecessor, Director Kraninger to issue these advisory opinions and other guidance documents. They do not create any new obligations. They simply restate what the existing laws are.”

    Chopra also answered questions relating to the Bureau’s proposal to limit credit card late fees and, among other things, adjust the safe harbor dollar amount for late fees to $8 for any missed payment (issuers are currently able to charge late fees of up to $41). (Covered by InfoBytes here.) Chopra explained that the proposed rule still allows recovery of costs but said the agency is trying to make the process “more rigorous and make sure it reflects market realities.” “[I]ssuers tell us is that they don’t want to profit off of late fees,” Chopra added. “That's exactly the goal here, because the law says those penalty fees are supposed to be reasonable and proportional. We’re trying to make it more clear about the way we can do that, while also making the market more competitive.”

    Republican senators expressed concerns with the proposal during the hearing, with Scott commenting that no one wants to pay the late fee, but that “the truth of the matter is that fee is going to be paid just in a different form. . . .whether it’s through increased interest rates or increased cost of products, it doesn’t go away.” Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) countered that “if there’s an $8 cap on credit card late fees, unless the banks can show that their costs are higher, in which case they can charge more, all that will happen, as best I can tell is that the banks will have slightly lower profit margins.”

    Chopra faced similar question during a hearing held the next day before the House Financial Services Committee. Among the topics, committee members raised questions relating to technology risks presented by artificial intelligence and how existing law applies to machine learning. Chopra was also accused of overseeing an unconstitutional agency and flouting the notice-and-comment rulemaking process. Also discussed during the hearing was a recently introduced joint resolution to nullify the Bureau’s small business lending rule. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) Representative Roger Williams (R-TX) stressed that community banks are “concerned that the complicated reporting requirements will tie up loan officers and increase compliance costs plus compliance officers, which will be passed down to the consumer.”

    Federal Issues CFPB Senate Banking Committee House Financial Services Committee Section 1071 Consumer Finance Artificial Intelligence Junk Fees Funding Structure Credit Cards Student Lending

  • Republicans say regulators are coordinating on de-banking digital assets

    Federal Issues

    On April 26, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Patrick McHenry (R-NC), Digital Assets, Financial Technology and Inclusion Subcommittee Chairman French Hill (R-AR), and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Bill Huizenga (R-MI) sent separate letters to the Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome Powell, FDIC Chair Martin J. Gruenberg, and acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael J. Hsu seeking information to help the lawmakers determine whether there exists a “coordinated strategy to de-bank the digital asset ecosystem in the United States” and “suppress innovation.”

    The text common to each letter pointed to actions taken by the federal prudential regulators as discouraging banks from offering services to digital asset firms. The lawmakers cited OCC guidance issued in 2021 (Interpretive Letter 1179, covered by InfoBytes here), which stated that banks can engage in certain cryptocurrency activities as long as they are able to “demonstrate, to the satisfaction of its supervisory office, that it has controls in place to conduct the activity in a safe and sound manner” and the banks receive a regulator’s written non-objection. Also discussed were FDIC instructions released in April 2022, which directed banks to promptly notify the agency if they intend to engage in, or are currently engaged in, any digital-asset-related activities, as well as a joint statement issued by the regulators in January that highlighted key risks banks should consider when choosing to engage in cryptocurrency activities. (Covered by InfoBytes here and here.)

    Referring to certain recent bank collapses, the lawmakers argued that they do not believe that the underlying problems were caused by digital asset-related customers. The lawmakers requested information related to non-public records and communications between agency employees and supervised banks relating to the aforementioned guidance by May 9.

    Federal Issues House Financial Services Committee FDIC OCC Federal Reserve Digital Assets


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