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On December 4, the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) issued final interpretive guidance to revise and update 2012 guidance concerning nonbank financial company designations. According to Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, the guidance “enhances [FSOC’s] ability to identify, assess, and respond to potential risks to U.S. financial stability. . . by promoting careful analysis and creating a more streamlined process.” Among other things, the guidance (i) implements an activities-based approach for identifying, assessing, and addressing potential risks and threats to financial stability in the U.S., allowing FSOC to work with federal and state financial regulators to implement appropriate actions when a potential risk is identified; (ii) enhances the analytic framework for potential nonbank financial company designations, which includes a cost-benefit analysis and a review of the likelihood of a company’s material financial distress determined by its vulnerability to a range of factors; and (iii) enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of the nonbank financial company designation process by condensing the process into two stages and increasing “engagement with and transparency to” companies under review, as well as their regulators, through the creation of pre- and post-designation off ramps.
FSOC also released its 2019 annual report to Congress, which reviews financial market developments, identifies emerging risks, and offers recommendations to enhance financial stability. Key highlights include:
- Cybersecurity. FSOC states that “[g]reater reliance on technology, particularly across a broader array of interconnected platforms, increases the risk that a cybersecurity event will have severe consequences for financial institutions.” Among other things, FSOC recommends continued robust, comprehensive cybersecurity monitoring, and supports the development of public and private partnerships to “increase coordination of cybersecurity examinations across regulatory authorities.”
- Nonbank Mortgage Origination and Servicing. The report adds the increasing share of mortgages held by nonbank mortgage companies to its list of concerns. FSOC notes that of the 25 largest originators and servicers, nonbanks originate roughly 51 percent of mortgages and service approximately 47 percent—a notable increase from 2009 where nonbanks only originated 10 percent of mortgages and serviced just 6 percent. FSOC states that risks in nonbank origination and servicing arise because most nonbanks have limited liquidity as compared to banks and rely more on short-term funding, among other things. FSOC recommends that federal and state regulators continue to coordinate efforts to collect data, identify risks, and strengthen oversight of nonbanks in this space.
- Financial Innovation. The report discusses the benefits of new financial products and practices, but cautions that these may also create new risks and vulnerabilities. FSOC recommends that these products and services—particularly digital assets and distributed ledger technology—should be continually monitored and analyzed to understand their effects on consumers, regulated entities, and financial markets.
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 November 15, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Director Kenneth Blanco delivered remarks at the Chainalysis Blockchain Symposium to discuss, among other things, the agency’s focus on convertible virtual currency (CVC) and remind attendees—particularly financial institutions—of their compliance obligations. Specifically, Blanco emphasized that FinCEN applies a “technology-neutral regulatory framework to any activity that provides the same functionality at the same level of risk, regardless of its label.” As such, money transmissions denominated in CVC, Blanco stated, are money transmissions. Blanco discussed guidance issued by FinCEN in May (previously covered by InfoBytes here) that reminded persons subject to the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) how FinCEN regulations relating to money services businesses apply to certain business models involving money transmissions denominated in CVC. Blanco also highlighted the agency’s recent collaboration with the CFTC and the SEC to issue joint guidance on digital asset compliance obligations. (Previous InfoBytes coverage here.) Highlights of Blanco’s remarks include (i) suspicious activity reporting related to CVC has increased, including “filings from exchanges identifying potential unregistered, foreign-located money services businesses”; (ii) compliance with the “Funds Travel Rule” is mandatory and applies to CVC; (iii) for anti-money laundering/combating the funding of terrorism purposes, accepting and transmitting activity denominated in stablecoins falls within FinCEN's definition of “money transmission services” under the BSA; and (iv) administrators of stablecoins must register as money services businesses with FinCEN.
On November 15, the SEC announced it issued its fiscal year 2019 whistleblower program annual report to Congress, which states that since the program’s inception, the SEC has ordered over $2 billion in total monetary sanctions in enforcement actions that resulted from information brought by meritorious whistleblowers. As for FY 2019, the SEC received over 5,200 whistleblower tips, with over 300 tips relating to cryptocurrencies, and awarded approximately $60 million in whistleblower awards to eight individuals. Since the program’s inception, the SEC has awarded approximately $387 million to 67 whistleblowers. The report acknowledges that FY 2019 was an “unusual year” due to the lapse in appropriations, referring to the government shutdown from the end of December 2018 through most of January 2019, and includes a summary of the six actions leading to the eight awards of FY 2019. The report notes that the agency anticipates final rules to be adopted in FY 2020 related to the July 2018 proposed amendments to the whistleblower program (covered by InfoBytes here). The proposed amendments, among other things, address the Supreme Court ruling in Digital Realty Trust, Inc. v. Somers (covered in a Buckley Special Alert) and authorize the SEC to adjust an award’s percentage as appropriate to advance the goals of rewarding and incentivizing whistleblowers.
On the same day, the SEC announced a collective award of over $260,000 to three whistleblowers who submitted a joint tip “alerting the agency to a well-concealed fraud targeting retail investors,” which led to a successful enforcement action. The order does not provide any additional details regarding the whistleblower or the company involved in the enforcement action. With this new action, the SEC has now awarded approximately $387 million to 70 whistleblowers.
On November 6, the CFPB held a symposium covering small business lending and Section 1071 of the Dodd-Frank Act, which amends ECOA to require financial institutions to compile, maintain, and submit to the Bureau certain information concerning credit applications by women-owned, minority-owned, and small businesses, and also directs the Bureau to promulgate regulations to implement these requirements. In her opening remarks, Director Kraninger, noted that the symposium was being convened to assist the Bureau with information gathering for upcoming rulemaking and emphasized that the Bureau is focused on a rulemaking that would not impede small business access to credit by imposing unnecessary costs on financial institutions. The symposium consisted of two panels, with the first covering policy issues related to small business lending, while the second discussed specific aspects of the requirements of Section 1071. Highlights of the panels include:
- Panel #1. During the policy discussion, panelists focused on non-traditional lenders, namely fintech firms, that have entered the small business lending market, with most noting that these online alternative lenders have filled a necessary lending gap left by traditional banks and depository institutions. While concerns around bad actors in the online lending space were discussed, most panelists agreed that online financing may provide an opportunity for women and minority-owned businesses to avoid potential biases in underwriting, with one panelist noting that his company does not collect gender or race information in its online application.
- Panel #2. Panelists focused their discussion on specific implementation concerns of Section 1071, including compliance costs, definitions of small business and financial institutions, data elements to be reported, and privacy concerns. Among other things, panelists noted that the definition of “small business” should be limited to businesses under $1 million in revenue, which is a figure included in other regulations such as ECOA and the CRA. Panelists disagreed on whether the Bureau should exercise its exemptive authority under Section 1071 for the definition of “financial institution.” While some panelists believe that the broad definition included in the Act is necessary to hold all the players in the market accountable, others argued that large financial institutions that receive an “outstanding” CRA rating should be excluded from the reporting requirements. As for data elements, most agreed that the Bureau should only require the statutorily mandated elements and not include any others in the rulemaking, while one panelist suggested that APR must be included in order to ensure that approval rates for minority-owned small businesses are the result of actual innovation and effective business models and not just the charging of high rates. Moreover, panelists reminded the Bureau to be cognizant of the small business lending reporting requirements of the CRA and HMDA and cautioned the Bureau to keep Section 1071 data requirements compatible.
On November 6, 2019 the FDIC published a notice and request for public comment in the Federal Register seeking input on a new collection of information titled “Information Collection for Innovation Pilot Programs.” The FDIC notes that the innovation pilot program framework is a continuation of the agency’s efforts to engage and collaborate “with innovators in the financial, non-financial, and technology sectors to, among other things, identify, develop, and promote technology-driven innovations among community and other banks in a manner that ensures the safety and soundness of FDIC-supervised and insured institutions.” The framework is intended to provide a regulatory environment to facilitate the testing of innovative and novel approaches or applications involving a variety of banking products and services that may lead to cost reductions, increased access to financial services, and a decrease in operational, risk management, or compliance costs for insured depository institutions. While the FDIC plans on announcing additional details and the framework’s parameters at a later date, the agency stated that “innovators (banks and firms in partnership with banks) will be invited to voluntarily propose time limited pilot programs, which will be collected and considered by the FDIC on a case-by-case basis.”
Comments on the proposal are due January 6, 2020.
On October 24, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced that LabCFTC will operate as an independent operating office of the agency, reporting directly to the chair of the CFTC. As previously covered by InfoBytes, LabCFTC was established in 2017 as an initiative to engage innovators in the financial technology industry and promote responsible fintech innovation. According to the CFTC, the change reflects the importance the agency places on examining the value of innovation within the financial marketplace and making the agency accessible to fintech innovators. The CFTC also released the Artificial Intelligence in Financial Markets primer to provide an “overview of how AI is applied in financial markets” as well as resources for market participants, consumers, and the public. The primer is part of a LabCFTC series on fintech innovation. (Previous InfoBytes coverage here.)
On October 25, NYDFS Superintendent Linda Lacewell announced that the state regulator has joined the Global Financial Innovation Network (GFIN). The GFIN was created by the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority in 2018 and is an international network of 50 organizations, including most recently the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, FDIC, OCC, and SEC. (Previous InfoBytes coverage here.) According to NYDFS, participation will provide opportunities to engage with international partners to support financial innovation, increase financial market resiliency, and create “better uses of technology for overseeing supervised marketplaces” by, among other things, facilitating cross-border testing of new products and services. NYDFS also reiterated the recent establishment of its new Research and Innovation Division (previous InfoBytes coverage here) as a demonstration of its commitment to innovation.
On October 21, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York entered a final judgment in NYDFS’s lawsuit against the OCC challenging the agency’s Special Purpose National Bank Charter (SPNB), concluding that the regulation should be “set aside with respect to all fintech applicants seeking a national bank charter that do not accept deposits.” As previously covered by InfoBytes, in May the district court denied the OCC’s motion to dismiss the complaint by NYDFS, which argued that the agency’s decision to allow fintech companies to apply for a SPNB is a move that will destabilize financial markets more effectively regulated by the state. The court stated that because the OCC failed to rebut NYDFS’s claims that the proposed national fintech charter posed a threat to the state’s ability to establish its own laws and regulations, the challenge “is ripe for adjudication.” After the May decision, the OCC informed the court that it would be seeking final judgment in the case, and on October 7, each party submitted proposed final orders (available here and here). The proposals were “nearly identical,” according to the court, as both (i) “direct the Clerk of Court to enter final judgment in favor of plaintiff [NYDFS] and close the case,” and (ii) “provide that each party shall bear its own fees and costs.” However, NYDFS proposed “that the regulation be ‘set aside with respect to all fintech applicants seeking a national bank charter that do not accept deposits,’” while the OCC suggested the regulation only be set aside “‘with respect to all fintech applicants seeking a national bank charter that do not accept deposits, and that have a nexus to New York State…in a manner that would subject them to regulation by [NYDFS].’” The court agreed with NYDFS, concluding that the OCC “failed to identify a persuasive reason to deviate from ordinary administrative law procedure,” which requires “vacatur” of the regulation.
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Risk management in enforcement actions: Managing risk or micromanaging it" at an American Bar Association webinar
- Kari K. Hall and Christopher M. Walczyszyn to speak on the "Understanding updates to Regulation CC to ensure effective check processing" at a National Association of Federal Credit Unions webinar
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "ACAMS Moneylaundering.com Year-End Compliance Review and 2020 Outlook" at an ACAMS webinar
- APPROVED Webcast: Periodic reporting made easier
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "A 20/20 view on 2020’s legislative and regulatory outlook" at the ACAMS Anti-Financial Crime and Public Policy Conference