Subscribe to our InfoBytes Blog weekly newsletter and other publications for news affecting the financial services industry.
CFPB seeks additional public input on big tech payment platforms
On October 31, the CFPB announced it will reopen the public comment period for 30 days on a 2021 notice and request for comment related to the Bureau’s inquiry into big tech payment platforms. In October 2021, the Bureau issued orders to six large U.S. technology companies seeking information and data on their payment system business practices to inform the agency as to how these companies use personal payments data and manage data access to users (covered by InfoBytes here). The Bureau is inviting additional comments to broaden its understanding of the risks consumers face and potential policy solutions on topics related to, among other things, “companies’ acceptable use policies and their use of fines, liquidated damages provisions, and other penalties.” A notice will be published in the Federal Register with additional details on the public comment period in the coming days.
FRBs to adopt new Fedwire format in 2025
On October 24, the Federal Reserve Board published a notice in the Federal Register announcing that the International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO) 20022 message format for the Fedwire Funds Service will be adopted on a single day, March 10, 2025. The Fedwire Funds Service is a real-time gross settlement system owned and operated by the Federal Reserve Banks that enables businesses and financial institutions to quickly and securely transfer funds using either balances held at the Reserve Banks or intraday credit provided by the Reserve Banks. A single-day implementation strategy is preferable to a three-phased implementation approach, the Fed said, explaining it is both simpler and more efficient and is likely to reduce users’ overall costs related to software development, testing, and training. The Fed also announced a revised testing strategy and backout strategy, as well as other details concerning ISO 20022’s implementation.
Special Alert: New Fed guidelines clarify, but do not transform, master account and payment services access
The Federal Reserve Board recently issued final guidelines for the Reserve Banks to use in reviewing requests from a range of financial services providers for access to Federal Reserve master accounts and payment services. Master account and Federal Reserve services allow institutions to transfer money to other master accountholders directly and hold funds in the Federal Reserve System, while others must go through third parties — which can add cost, delay, and further complication to transactions.
The final guidelines are substantially similar to those proposed in 2021 and a supplement issued earlier this year. They make the application process more transparent by describing the risk factors that a Reserve Bank should take into consideration and by applying a three-tier approach regarding the intensity of a Reserve Bank’s review. However, the guidelines do not broaden the categories of entities that are eligible to apply in the first place, do not establish application processing timelines, and do not provide a clear path forward for entities that lack federal bank supervision, including novel charter types.
Fed to implement new Fedwire message format in March 2025
On June 27, the Federal Reserve Board announced the final timeline and implementation details for the adoption of the International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO) 20022 message format for its Fedwire Funds Service—a real-time gross settlement system owned and operated by the Federal Reserve Banks that enables businesses and financial institutions to quickly and securely transfer funds. (See notice here.) The final details are “broadly similar” to the Fed’s proposal issued last October (covered by InfoBytes here). The Fed confirmed that ISO 20022 will be adopted on a single day as previously proposed instead of in three separate phases. Additionally, the Fed extended the implementation timeframe from a target date of November 2023 to March 10, 2025, based on comments received in response to the initial proposal. The Fed also provided information concerning its revised testing strategy and backout strategy, as well as other details concerning the implementation of the new message format.
OCC updates Payment Systems booklet
On October 21, the OCC issued Bulletin 2021-49 announcing the revision of the Payment Systems booklet of the Comptroller’s Handbook. The booklet rescinds the Payment Systems and Funds Transfer Activities booklet of the Comptroller’s Handbook (March 1990); the Office of Thrift Supervision Examination Handbook section 580, the Payments Systems Risk (January 1994); banking Circular 235, International Payments Systems Risks (May 10, 1989); and OCC Bulletin 1996-48, Stored Value Card Systems: Information for Bankers and Examiners (September 3, 1996). Among other things, the revised booklet: (i) provides information on payment systems, types of payments, risks associated with payment systems, and associated risk management practices; (ii) highlights the requirements of 12 CFR 7.1026 on payment systems memberships; and (iii) includes expanded examination procedures and “supplemental procedures for deeper review of certain payment activities.”
CFPB orders tech companies to submit payment system information
On October 21, the CFPB issued orders to six large U.S. technology companies seeking information and data on their payment system business practices. The Bureau stated that the information is intended to help the Bureau understand how these companies use personal payments data and manage data access to users. The Bureau issued the orders citing its authority under the CFPA, Section 1022(c)(4), which grants the agency “statutory authority to order participants in the payments market to turn over information to help the Bureau monitor for risks to consumers and to publish aggregated findings that are in the public interest.” The Bureau’s press release also noted it intends to study the payment system practices of two major Chinese tech companies.
The Bureau made available an example order that contains 55 requests seeking various information and data on several topics, including: (i) “[d]ata harvesting and monetization”; (ii) “[a]ccess restrictions and user choice”; and (iii) documents and information related to payment platforms and compliance with federal consumer protection laws, such as the EFTA and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. Citing consumer data and privacy expectations, the Bureau explained that “[c]onsumers expect certain assurances when dealing with companies that move their money. They expect to be protected from fraud and payments made in error, for their data and privacy to be protected and not shared without their consent, to have responsive customer service, and to be treated equally under relevant law.”
Director Rohit Chopra issued a statement commenting on the purpose of the orders. He noted that the Bureau’s inquiry “is one of many efforts within the Federal Reserve System to plan for the future of real-time payments” and that it “will help to inform regulators and policymakers about the future of our payments system.”
Fed to adopt Fedwire message format, asks for comments on expedited adoption
On October 4, the Federal Reserve Board announced that it will adopt the International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO) 20022 message format for its Fedwire Funds Service—a real-time gross settlement system owned and operated by the Federal Reserve Banks that enables businesses and financial institutions to quickly and securely transfer funds. This change will enable “enhanced efficiency of both domestic and cross-border payments, and a richer set of payment data that may help banks and other entities comply with sanctions and anti-money laundering requirements,” the Fed stated. Additionally, the Fed requested public comments on a revised plan (targeted for no earlier than November 2023) to implement the ISO 20022 message format on a single day rather than in three separate phases, as originally proposed. According to the Fed, the adoption of ISO 20022 is part of the agency’s initiative to enhance its payment services. Comments must be received 90 days after publication in the Federal Register.
Fed amends Reg. D, invites comments on FedNow transfers
On June 2, the Federal Reserve Board announced the approval of a final rule amending Regulation D, which eliminates “references to an interest on required reserves” rate and “to an interest on excess reserves” rate and replaces them with a reference to “a single interest on reserve balances” rate. The final rule also simplifies “the formula used to calculate the amount of interest paid on balances maintained by or on behalf of eligible institutions in master accounts at Federal Reserve Banks.” The final rule is effective July 29.
Earlier, on June 1, the Fed also issued a proposed rule, which would create a new, comprehensive set of rules for governing funds transfers over the FedNow Service. Specifically, the proposed rule would amend Regulation J by establishing a new subpart C to specify terms and conditions for the processing of funds transfers by Reserve Banks. It would also grant Reserve Banks the authority to issue operating circulars for the FedNow Service, and would include, among other things, a requirement that a beneficiary’s bank agree to “make funds available to the beneficiary immediately after it has accepted the payment order.” The Fed is also proposing changes and clarifications to subpart B, which governs the Fedwire Funds Services, “to reflect the fact that the Reserve Banks will be operating a second funds transfer service in addition to the Fedwire Funds Service.” As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Fed intends to implement the FedNow Service—a “round-the-clock real-time payment and settlement service”—through a phased approach with a target launch date sometime in 2023 or 2024. Comments on the proposed rule are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
Fed proposes changes to its Policy on Payment System Risk governing intraday credit
On May 28, the Federal Reserve Board issued a notice and request for comments on proposed changes to its Policy on Payments System Risk (PSR Policy) to expand access to collateralized intraday credit from Federal Reserve Banks (Reserve Banks) and clarify eligibility standards for accessing uncollateralized intraday credit from the Reserve Banks. Specifically, the Fed is proposing changes to part II of its PSR Policy, which was previously revised and implemented in 2011 to “improve intraday liquidity management and payment flows for the banking system while helping to mitigate the credit exposures of the Reserve Banks from daylight overdrafts.” The proposed changes would also align the Fed’s payments system risk and overnight overdraft policies with the deployment of the FedNow Service (covered by InfoBytes here) and the Fed’s 24x7x365 payment environment. Relatedly, the Fed noted it is also proposing to incorporate its policy on overnight overdrafts into the PSR Policy. Comments on the proposed changes are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
Fed announces new details of the FedNow Service
On August 6, the Federal Reserve Board (Board) announced details of its new payment clearing system, the FedNow Service, which the Board plans to implement through a phased approach with a target launch date sometime in 2023 or 2024. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in August 2019, the Board issued a request for information on a “round-the-clock real-time payment and settlement service,” seeking feedback on how the service might be designed in order to support payment system stakeholders and the general functioning of the U.S. payment system. The Board notes that the newly released details are based on the input received from stakeholders. The Federal Register notice discusses the phased released approach, noting that the “approach will ensure the core features and functionality are delivered as quickly as possible,” even if “certain desirable features” are not available in the initial release. Highlights of the core features of the “24x7x365” FedNow Service include, among other things, (i) a payment flow where the receiver’s bank has an opportunity to confirm that it holds a valid account for the receiver and intends to accept the payment message, before interbank settlement occurs; (ii) the use of the “widely accepted ISO 20022 standard and adopt other industry best practices” for payment message format; (iii) a transaction limit that will be “consistent with market practices and needs at the time” of the launch of service; and (iv) a liquidity-management tool that will allow participants to transfer funds to each other to support the liquidity needs of instant payments. After the initial launch, the Board intends to offer additional features related to fraud prevention, error resolution and case management.