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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

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  • Agencies propose codifying that supervisory guidance lacks force of law

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On October 20, the Federal Reserve Board, CFPB, FDIC, NCUA, and OCC released a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), which seeks to codify the “Interagency Statement Clarifying the Role of Supervisory Guidance issued by the agencies on September 11, 2018 (2018 Statement).” As previously covered by InfoBytes, the 2018 Statement confirmed that supervisory guidance “does not have the force and effect of law, and [that] the agencies do not take enforcement actions based on supervisory guidance.” The Statement emphasized that the intention of supervisory guidance is to outline agencies’ expectations or priorities and highlighted specific policies and practices the agencies intend to take relating to supervisory guidance to further clarify the proper role of guidance, including: (i) not citing to “violations” of supervisory guidance; (ii) limiting the use of numerical thresholds or other “bright-line” requirements; (iii) limiting multiple issuances of guidance on the same topic; (iv) continuing to emphasize the role of supervisory guidance to examiners and to supervised institutions; and (v) encouraging supervised institutions to discuss supervisory guidance questions with their appropriate agency contact.

    In addition to codifying the above elements of the 2018 Statement, the proposal would amend the 2018 Statement by (i) clarifying that references in the Statement limiting agency “criticisms” includes criticizing institutions “through the issuance of [matters requiring attention] MRAs and other supervisory criticisms, including those communicated through matters requiring board attention, documents of resolution, and supervisory recommendations”; and (ii) adding that supervisory criticisms should be “specific as to practices, operations, financial conditions, or other matters that could have a negative effect on the safety and soundness of the financial institution, could cause consumer harm, or could cause violations of laws, regulations, final agency orders, or other legally enforceable conditions.”

    Comments are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, which has not yet occurred.

     

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Reserve CFPB FDIC NCUA OCC Supervision Examination Enforcement

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  • California Department of Real Estate issues FAQs regarding licensing process

    State Issues

    On September 21, the California Department of Real Estate issued FAQs on licensing processes during Covid-19. The FAQs respond to questions regarding, among other things, how to determine whether an exam has been cancelled and how to reschedule the exam, the best way to complete a renewal of an expiring real estate license, completing continuing education requirements, and whether the DRE will accept electronic signatures on licensing documents.

    State Issues Covid-19 California Licensing Examination Real Estate Mortgage Licensing

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  • CSBS announces single exam for money transmitters

    State Issues

    On September 15, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) announced the launch of a single, streamlined examination for money transmitters operating nationwide (i.e., in 40 or more states), known as “MSB Networked Supervision.” The single exam—which will apply to “78 of the nation’s largest payments and cryptocurrency companies”—will be led by one state overseeing a group of examiners sourced from around the country. MSB Networked Supervision is a result of recommendations from the CSBS Fintech Industry Advisory Panel and CSBS Vision 2020 (covered by InfoBytes here).

    State Issues Money Service / Money Transmitters State Regulator Examination Supervision Vision 2020 Licensing CSBS Fintech

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  • CFPB issues Summer 2020 Supervisory Highlights

    Federal Issues

    On September 4, the CFPB released its summer 2020 Supervisory Highlights, which details its supervisory and enforcement actions in the areas of consumer reporting, debt collection, deposits, fair lending, mortgage servicing, and payday lending. The findings of the report, which are published to assist entities in complying with applicable consumer laws, cover examinations that generally were completed between September and December of 2019. Highlights of the examination findings include:

    • Consumer Reporting. The Bureau cited violations of the FCRA’s requirement that lenders first establish a permissible purpose before they obtain a consumer credit report. Additionally, the report notes instances where furnishers failed to review account information and other documentation provided by consumers during direct and indirect disputes. The Bureau notes that “[i]nadequate staffing and high daily dispute resolution requirements contributed to the furnishers’ failure to conduct reasonable investigations.”
    • Debt Collection. The report states that examiners found one or more debt collectors (i) falsely threatened consumers with illegal lawsuits; (ii) falsely implied that debts would be reported to credit reporting agencies (CRA); and (iii) falsely represented that they operated or were employed by a CRA.
    • Deposits. The Bureau discusses violations related to Regulation E and Regulation DD, including requiring waivers of consumers’ error resolution and stop payment rights and failing to fulfill advertised bonus offers.
    • Fair Lending. The report notes instances where examiners cited violations of ECOA, including intentionally redlining majority-minority neighborhoods and failing to consider public assistance income when determining a borrower’s eligibility for mortgage modification programs.
    • Mortgage Servicing. The Bureau cited violations of Regulation Z and Regulation X, including (i) failing to provide periodic statements to consumers in bankruptcy; (ii) charging forced-placed insurance without a reasonable basis; and (iii) various errors after servicing transfers.
    • Payday Lending. The report discusses violations of the Consumer Financial Protection Act for payday lenders, including (i) falsely representing that they would not run a credit check; (ii) falsely threatening lien placement or asset seizure; and (iii) failing to provide required advertising disclosures.

    The report also highlights the Bureau’s recently issued rules and guidance, including the various responses to the CARES Act and the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Federal Issues CFPB Consumer Reporting Debt Collection Deposits Fair Lending Mortgage Servicing Payday Lending Supervision Examination CARES Act Covid-19

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  • SEC urges firms impacted by Covid-19 to review supervisory and compliance policies

    Securities

    On August 12, the SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations issued a risk alert to broker-dealers and investment advisers (firms) impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic addressing observations and recommendations related to several categories, including investor asset protection; personnel supervision; practices related to fees, expenses, and financial transactions; investment fraud; business continuity; and protecting sensitive information. The alert recommends firms review—and where appropriate—modify supervisory and compliance policies and procedures as they deal with market volatility and technological challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic. The alert notes that firms may need to update their practices to address, among other things, (i) unusual or unscheduled investor withdrawals; (ii) staffers communicating or executing transactions off-site or on personal devices, or making securities recommendations tied to market sectors experiencing high volatility or fraud; and (iii) supervisors having less oversight and interaction with staff in remote environments, leading to difficulties in maintaining effective due diligence, conducting background checks when hiring, or overseeing requisite examinations. Additionally, firms are instructed to monitor potential conflicts of interest and fee errors when informing investors about the costs of services, investment products, and related compensation, while also ensuring recommendations are made in the “best interest of investors.” The alert also recognizes that “times of crisis or uncertainty can create a heightened risk of investment fraud through fraudulent offerings,” and advises firms to “be cognizant of these risks when conducting due diligence on investments and in determining that the investments are in the best interest of investors.” Firms and investors who suspect fraud are advised to contact the SEC and report the potential fraud.

    Securities SEC Examination Covid-19 Supervision Compliance

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  • New York extends expiration date of licenses issued by the Division of Licensing Services

    State Issues

    Pursuant to Executive Order 202.11 (previously discussed here), the Department of State, Division of Licensing Services, announced that any license issued by the division that expires after March 27, 2020, will remain in effect until September 5, 2020. Further, the announcement notes that the Appraisal Subcommittee of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council has advised that appraisers within New York have been granted a 90-day deferment for meeting continuing education requirements. A license holder that is eligible to renew and does not need the extension is encouraged to renew the license. Other license holders may rely on the above extensions. 

    State Issues Covid-19 New York Licensing Appraisal Financial Institutions Examination

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  • SEC’s new exam team focuses on emerging threats

    Securities

    On July 28, the SEC announced the creation of the Event and Emerging Risks Examination Team (EERT), which will “proactively engage with financial firms about emerging threats and current market events.” Specifically, the new team will be held in the agency’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) and will work collaboratively with OCIE’s exam staff in regional offices to, among other things, (i) ensure that firms are “better prepared” to address existing threats and emerging risks; and (ii) provide expertise and support in response to market events that place investor assets at risk, such as cyber-security or operational resiliency concerns.

    Securities SEC Examination

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  • Fed updates FOIA rules for CSI

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On July 24, the Federal Reserve Board issued a final rule revising its “Rules Regarding Availability of Information,” to update and clarify the Board’s regulations implementing the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the rules covering the disclosure of confidential supervisory information (CSI). The final rule, among other things, adopts standards consistent with the OCC’s rules, including (i) permitting supervised financial institutions to disclose CSI with their directors, officers, and employees “when necessary or appropriate for business purposes”; (ii) “permitting disclosures to the supervised financial institution’s outside legal counsel and auditors when the disclosures are ‘necessary or appropriate in connection with the provision of legal or auditing services’”; and (iii) “eliminat[ing] the requirement that supervised financial institutions obtain prior [Board] approval to disclose [CSI] to their other service providers, such as consultants, contractors, and contingent workers.” The final rule also updates definitions for expedited processing, clarifies terms, and helps users “more easily navigate the process of filing a FOIA request.” The final rule is effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance FOIA Supervision Examination Federal Reserve

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  • Louisiana Office of Financial Institutions, Securities Division, reissues update on operations

    State Issues

    On July 24, the Louisiana Office of Financial Institutions, Securities Division, reissued an earlier announcement on its operations, which was previously covered here. The announcement provides that: (i) paper copies of registration documents and payment of related fees can be mailed to the LOFI, and certain filings can be submitted electronically; (ii) examinations are being conducted remotely using phone and email correspondence in lieu of traditional on-site examinations; (iii) licensing staff continue to process licensing and registration applications through the CRD/IARD systems; and (iv) enforcement staff are limiting in-person contacts with witnesses and regulatory partners, and are using telecommunications technology to complete tasks remotely.

    State Issues Covid-19 Financial Institutions Examination Licensing Enforcement

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  • Indiana provides broker-dealers with relief from branch examination regulation

    State Issues

    On July 13, the Indiana Secretary of State, Securities Division, issued a compliance alert providing temporary relief from annual branch examination requirements. In light of the restrictions on travel caused by the pandemic, broker-dealers are not required to conduct an annual compliance examination in each branch office located in Indiana. However, a firm with the ability to conduct a remote branch examination during 2020 is encouraged to do so. Registrants are also reminded of their obligation to properly supervise agents and employees. 

    State Issues Covid-19 Indiana Broker-Dealer Examination

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