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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

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  • FDIC releases October enforcement actions, includes BSA and TILA violations

    Federal Issues

    On November 30, the FDIC announced a list of administrative enforcement actions taken against banks and individuals in October. Included among the actions is an order to pay a civil money penalty of $9,600 issued against a Louisiana-based bank for alleged violations of the Flood Disaster Protection Act in connection with alleged failures to obtain flood insurance coverage on loans at or before origination or renewal.

    Consent orders were also issued against three separate banks related to alleged weaknesses in their Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and/or BSA/anti-money laundering (BSA/AML) compliance programs. (See orders here, here, and here.) Among other things, the banks are ordered to: (i) implement comprehensive written BSA/AML compliance programs, which include revising BSA risk assessment policies, developing a system of BSA internal controls, and enhancing suspicious activity monitoring and reporting and customer due diligence procedures; (ii) conduct independent testing; and (iii) implement effective BSA training programs. The FDIC further requires the Florida and New Jersey-based banks to conduct suspicious activity reporting look-back reviews.

    In addition, a Kentucky-based bank was ordered to pay a civil money of $300,000 for allegedly violating TILA by “failing to clearly and conspicuously disclose required information related to the [b]ank’s Elastic line of credit product” and Section 5 of the FTC ACT by “using a processing order for certain deposit account transactions contrary to the processing orders disclosed in the [b]ank’s deposit account disclosures.”

    There are no administrative hearings scheduled for December 2018. The FDIC database containing all 17 enforcement decisions and orders may be accessed here.

    Federal Issues FDIC Enforcement Flood Insurance Flood Disaster Protection Act Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering Bank Compliance TILA SARs

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  • FinCEN, OCC, FBI discuss BSA/AML regime modernization needs before Senate Banking Committee

    Federal Issues

    On November 29, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a hearing entitled “Combating Money Laundering and Other Forms of Illicit Finance: Regulator and Law Enforcement Perspectives on Reform” to discuss efforts to improve the Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering (BSA/AML) regulatory, supervisory, and enforcement regime. Committee Chairman Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, opened the hearing by emphasizing the need for a continued dialogue on modernizing the BSA/AML regime to “encourage the innovation necessary to combat illicit financing while also encouraging regulators to focus on more tangible threats, and law enforcement to increase interagency cooperation and improve information sharing throughout the process.”

    Among other things, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Director Kenneth A. Blanco highlighted the following three key priorities as part of FinCEN’s “multi-prong approach” to the regulatory reform process: (i) examining and understanding the value and effectiveness of the BSA through data-driven analysis in conjunction with both considering changes to enhance efficiency (such as evaluating suspicious activity and currency transaction reporting requirements) and engaging with regulators through, for example, monthly meetings with the FFIEC’s Anti-Money Laundering Working Group; (ii) “promot[ing] responsible innovation and creative solutions to combat money laundering and terrorist financing” by exploring ways to collaborate with financial institutions to improve AML/countering the financing of terrorism compliance, fostering innovation, and leveraging technology while also minimizing vulnerabilities; and (iii) “[e]nhancing public-private partnerships that reveal and mitigate vulnerabilities” and sharing information with the private sector to help identify suspicious activity.

    OCC Compliance and Community Affairs Senior Deputy Comptroller Grovetta N. Gardineer discussed the agency’s efforts to enhance the efficiency of its current supervisory practices, and commented on how new technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning provide opportunities for banks to cut costs and identify suspicious activity. Gardineer also highlighted the OCC’s Money Laundering Risk System, which allows for the identification of potentially higher-risk community bank areas by “identifying the products and services offered by these institutions, as well as the customers and geographies they serve.” In addition, Gardineer offered recommendations for BSA amendments to improve supervisory efforts, such as (i) requiring a periodic review of BSA/AML regulations to identify those that may be outdated or burdensome; (ii) amending BSA safe harbor rules to clarify that a financial institution can file a suspicious activity report without being exposed to civil liability; and (iii) expanding safe harbor to permit information sharing beyond money laundering and terrorism financing between financial institutions without incurring liability. Moreover, Gardineer stated that FinCEN’s notice requirement with respect to information-sharing under section 314(b) of the USA Patriot Act should be eliminated or modified in order to enhance institutions’ ability to share information.

    FBI Criminal Investigative Division Section Chief Steven M. D'Antuono also discussed, among other things, the Treasury Department’s recent Customer Due Diligence Final Rule (see previous InfoBytes coverage here), and stated that the Rule is “a step toward a system that makes it difficult for sophisticated criminals to circumvent the law through use of opaque corporate structures.”

    Federal Issues OCC Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering Bank Supervision Senate Banking Committee

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  • FHA’s second appraisal requirement for reverse mortgages now fully automated

    Federal Issues

    On November 29, FHA announced that the protocols in place for the second appraisal requirement for certain reverse mortgage transactions are now fully automated. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in September, FHA announced that it would require a second appraisal for certain Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) transactions (also known as “reverse mortgages”) to mitigate the risk that valuation of the collateral poses to FHA borrowers and the Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund, according to Mortgagee Letter 2018-06. FHA will perform a collateral risk assessment of the appraisal prepared for use in all reverse mortgage originations; whether a second appraisal is required will depend on the results of the assessment. Now, once an appraisal is logged into the system, a lender will immediately receive a message indicating whether a second appraisal is required or not required.

    Federal Issues FHA Reverse Mortgages Appraisal HECM

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  • OCC reduces assessments by 10 percent for 2019

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On November 30, the OCC announced a 10 percent reduction in the marginal rates for assessments on national banks, federal savings associations, and federal branches and agencies of foreign banks for 2019. The OCC projects the change will reduce total assessments collected by more than $90 million in 2019. The change will take effect with the March 31, 2019 assessment period.

    Additionally, the OCC announced a change to the refund policy for institutions that leave the federal system during an assessment period. If an institution leaves the federal system during the first half of a semiannual assessment period, the OCC will issue a refund for the second half of the assessment period. If an institution leaves during the second half of an assessment period, the OCC will not issue a refund. As a result of this revised policy, institutions will no longer be required to prepay for three months of supervision after they leave the federal system.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Issues OCC Assessments

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  • U.S., Canada, and Mexico announce annual financial regulatory forum

    Federal Issues

    On November 30, the U.S. Treasury Department, the Canadian Department of Finance, and the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit of Mexico (collectively, the “authorities”) announced the creation of the Canada-Mexico-United States Financial Regulatory Forum (Forum) to share information on financial sector developments and financial regulatory practices and procedures. The authorities published a joint “understanding,” which outlines the Forum’s intentions, including: (i) sharing information to allow for timely identification of potential cross-border financial regulatory issues; (ii) exchanging views on emerging financial sector developments and financial stability risks; and (iii) discussing regulatory issues that arise in bilateral and multilateral contexts or which relate to international standards. The Forum intends to meet annually.

    Federal Issues Canada Mexico Regulation Financial Stability Department of Treasury

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  • FFIEC issues second Examination Modernization Project update

    Federal Issues

    On November 27, the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) issued the second update on the status of its Examination Modernization Project. The project’s objective is to identify and assess measures to improve the community bank safety and soundness examination process, pursuant to the Economic Growth and Regulatory Paperwork Reduction Act’s review of regulations. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in March, the FFIEC released the first update, which identified four areas with potential for the most “meaningful supervisory burden reduction.” The second update focuses on tailoring examination plans and procedures based on risk in order to reduce burden. Specifically, after a review of risk-based procedures and processes, the Federal Reserve Board, the FDIC, the NCUA, the OCC, and the State Liaison Committee have committed to issue reinforcing and clarifying examiner guidance to their examination staffs on risk-focused examination principles for community financial institutions, if necessary. The guidance covers, among other things, the following practices (i) consideration of the unique risk profile, complexity, and business model of the institution when developing the exam plan; (ii) tailoring of the document request list based on the financial institution’s business model, complexity, risk profile and planned scope of review; and (iii) applying examination procedures in a way that reduces the level of review of low risk institutions or low risk areas.

    The FFIEC noted it may take further action to improve the examination process as the project progresses.

    Federal Issues FFIEC FDIC Federal Reserve NCUA OCC Examination Community Banks

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  • CFPB publishes quarterly report examining how natural disasters affect credit reporting

    Federal Issues

    On November 21, the CFPB released the latest quarterly consumer credit trends report, which examines how natural disasters affect consumers’ credit reports based on a sample of approximately 5 million credit records. The report notes that while financial institutions are not required to report natural disaster assistance information, in 2017, about 8.3 percent of consumer credit reports included information in a special comment code labeled “affected by natural or declared disasters,” which the CFPB states is similar to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s estimate that roughly 8 percent of U.S. residents were affected by natural disasters in 2017. Additionally, the report summarizes the natural disaster reporting trends for consumers in the Greater Houston area affected by Hurricane Harvey. Highlights of the report include (i) almost 40 percent of consumers with a credit report in the Greater Houston area received a comment code regarding the hurricane after it hit; (ii) the most common type of tradeline to receive a natural disaster comment code are mortgage loans; and (iii) accounts that received the natural disaster comment code are associated with higher rates of delinquency prior to Hurricane Harvey.

    Federal Issues CFPB Mortgages Credit Report Disaster Relief

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  • FHFA increases conforming loan limits for 2019

    Federal Issues

    On November 27, the FHFA announced that it will raise the maximum conforming loan limits for mortgages purchased in 2019 by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from $453,100 to $484,350. The announcement marks the third consecutive year FHFA has increased the baseline loan limit. In high-cost areas, such as Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., the maximum loan limit will be $726,525. For a county-specific list of the maximum loan limits in the U.S., click here.

    Federal Issues Mortgages FHFA Mortgage Lenders Fannie Mae Freddie Mac Conforming Loan

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  • Auto lender pays $11.8 million to resolve investigation into add-on product and loan extension program

    Federal Issues

    On November 20, the CFPB announced a settlement with a Texas-based auto lender to resolve allegations that the lender violated the Consumer Financial Protection Act by deceptively marketing an auto-loan guaranteed asset protection (GAP) add-on product and misrepresenting the impact on consumers of obtaining a loan extension. Regarding the GAP add-on product, which was intended to cover a “gap” between the consumer’s primary auto insurance payout and the consumer’s outstanding loan balance in the event of a total vehicle loss, the CFPB alleged that the lender failed to disclose to consumers that if their loan-to-value was greater than 125 percent, they would not receive the “true full coverage” advertised with the GAP add-on product. Regarding extensions of auto loans, the CFPB alleged, among other things, that the lender failed to “clearly and prominently” disclose that interest accrued during a loan extension would be paid before principal when the consumer resumed making payments on the extended loan. Under the order, the lender must, among other things, (i) pay $9.29 million in consumer restitution; (ii) clearly and prominently disclose the terms of the GAP add-on product and loan extension; and (iii) pay $2.5 million in a civil money penalty.

    Federal Issues CFPB Settlement Consent Order Auto Finance Interest Rate

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  • VA encourages loan holders to extend relief to borrowers impacted by California wildfires

    Federal Issues

    On November 15, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued Circular 26-18-26, requesting relief for homeowners impacted by the California wildfires. Among other things, the Circular encourages loan holders to (i) extend forbearance to borrowers in distress because of the wildfires; (ii) establish a 90-day moratorium from the date of the disaster on initiating new foreclosures on affected loans; (iii) waive late charges on affected loans; and (iv) suspend reporting affected loans to credit bureaus. The Circular is effective until October 1, 2019. Mortgage servicers and veteran borrowers are also encouraged to review the VA’s Guidance on Natural Disasters.

    Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on disaster relief here.

    Federal Issues Department of Veterans Affairs Disaster Relief Mortgages

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