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On September 21, the Federal Reserve Board (Fed) issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) inviting public comment on its approach for modernizing the regulations that implement the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). The Fed’s ANPR follows a final rule to modernize the regulatory framework implementing the CRA issued by the OCC in May (covered by a Buckley Special Alert), which was met by opposition from community coalitions and House Democrats (covered by InfoBytes here and here). Neither the FDIC nor the Fed joined in promulgating the OCC’s final rule, which is technically effective October 1, 2020, but provides for at least a 27-month transition period for compliance based on a bank’s size and business model.
According to the Fed, the ANPR’s objectives are to increase the clarity, consistency and transparency of CRA supervisory expectations and standards, while minimizing data collection burdens. The following are key takeaways from the ANPR:
- Promoting financial inclusion. The ANPR seeks feedback on ways to strengthen regulations and evaluate how banks meet the needs of low- and moderate-income (LMI) communities and address inequities in credit access. The ANPR proposes, among other things, (i) ways to encourage more activities that support minority depository institutions (MDIs), Community Development Financial Institutions, as well as women-owned financial institutions and low-income credit unions outside of a bank’s assessment area; (ii) seeks feedback on additional incentives for investing in and partnering with MDIs; and (iii) requests input on expanding geographic areas for community development activities to allow banks to receive special CRA credit for activities in areas with high unmet needs.
- Metrics. The ANPR introduces a metrics-based approach to bring greater clarity, consistency, and transparency to how banks are assessed and rated. The ANPR proposes assessing banks’ CRA performance using a Retail Test and a Community Development Test with options to be evaluated under certain subsets based on their size. According to the Fed’s fact sheet, the metrics would be “tailored to local market conditions and adjust[ed] automatically to reflect structural economic differences and changes over the business cycle.” Additionally, the proposed retail lending metrics formulas use the number of a bank’s loans, rather than the dollar amount of those loans, to avoid weighting larger loans more heavily than smaller ones.
- Internet banks. The ANPR contemplates defining an internet bank for CRA purposes and allowing such internet banks to delineate nationwide assessment areas to “more holistically capture their banking activities.”
- CRA deserts. The ANPR considers designating “CRA deserts”—“areas with little bank presence and corresponding lesser availability of banking products and services and community development activities”—and allowing banks to receive credit for community development activities in designated areas of need outside of their assessment areas. The ANPR also suggests providing additional consideration if a bank operates a branch in a designated banking desert within an assessment area.
- CRA-approved activities. The ANPR proposes publishing an illustrative, non-exhaustive list of community development activities that qualify for CRA consideration and seeks feedback on an activity pre-approval process.
- Small banks. The ANPR proposes eliminating the current intermediate small bank category and establishing an asset-size threshold of $750 million or $1 billion to distinguish between small and large retail banks. Currently, the asset threshold between small and intermediate small banks is $326 million, and the threshold between intermediate small and large banks is $1.305 billion. Small retail banks could continue to be evaluated under the current CRA framework but would have the option to be evaluated under certain of the new subtests. Small banks are also exempt from additional deposit and certain other data collection requirements.
- Consistent approach. Fed Chair Jerome Powell released a statement stressing that the ANPR “is an important step forward in laying a foundation for the [Fed, OCC, and FDIC] to build a shared, modernized CRA framework that has broad support.”
Comments on the ANPR are due 120 days after publication in the Federal Register.
Fed: Lenders must consider pre-pandemic condition when underwriting Main Street Lending Program loans
On September 18, the Federal Reserve Board, in conjunction with the FDIC and the OCC, revised the Main Street Lending Program (MSLP) FAQs (for-profit here, nonprofit here) to clarify underwriting expectations, supervisory expectations, and details regarding co-borrower loans. Specifically, the FAQs note that a lender is expected to “conduct an assessment of each potential borrower’s pre-pandemic financial condition and post-pandemic prospects” when reviewing an application to determine approval. Additionally, the FAQs state that Fed supervisors will “not criticize” lenders for originating loans in accordance with MSLP requirements, even when “such loans are considered non-pass at the time of origination,” provided the weaknesses are due to the Covid-19 pandemic and expected to be temporary. Finally, the FAQs include new details covering co-borrower loans, as the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston anticipates the MSLP will accept loans made to multiple co-borrowers starting next week.
On September 1, the Federal Reserve Board, OCC, FDIC, NCUA, and the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) issued a joint statement covering supervisory practices for financial institutions affected by Hurricane Laura and the California wildfires. Among other things, the agencies called on financial institutions to “work constructively” with affected borrowers, noting that “prudent efforts” to adjust loan terms in affected areas “should not be subject to examiner criticism.” Institutions facing difficulties in complying with any publishing and reporting requirements should contact their primary federal and/or state regulator. Additionally, the agencies noted that institutions may receive Community Reinvestment Act consideration for community development loans, investments, and services that revitalize or stabilize federally designated disaster areas.
Additionally, HUD announced it will make disaster assistance available to Louisiana, which will provide foreclosure relief and other assistance to homeowners living in parishes affected by Hurricane Laura. Specifically, HUD is providing an automatic 90-day moratorium on foreclosures of FHA-insured home mortgages for covered properties and is making FHA insurance available to those victims whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged. Additionally, HUD’s Section 203(k) loan program will allow individuals who have lost homes to finance the purchase of a house, or refinance an existing house along with the costs of repair, through a single mortgage. The program will also allow homeowners with damaged property to finance the rehabilitation of existing single-family homes.
On August 26, the Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, and OCC finalized three rules that were temporarily issued in March and April to assist financial institutions during the Covid-19 pandemic. Highlights of the three rules include:
- Community Bank Leverage Ratio (CBLR). The agencies adopted, without change, two interim final rules issued in April (covered by InfoBytes here) that temporarily lower the CBLR threshold and provide a gradual transition back to the prior level in order to enable qualifying community banking organizations to support lending during the Covid-19 pandemic. Effective October 1, the final rule, among other things, lowers the leverage ratio to eight percent through 2020 and increases the ratio to 8.5 percent in 2021 and nine percent in 2022.
- Current Expected Credit Losses (CECL). The agencies adopted, without substantial change, an interim final rule issued in March (covered by InfoBytes here), which provides an additional two years to the three-year transition period that is already available to “mitigate the estimated cumulative regulatory capital effects” of CECL. The final rule expands the pool of eligible institutions to include any institution adopting CECL in 2020 and is effective upon publication in the Federal Register.
- Capital distributions. The agencies adopted, without change, an interim final rule issued in March revising the definition of “eligible retained income” to allow for a more gradual application of any automatic limitations on capital distributions if an institution’s capital levels decline below certain levels. Additionally, the final rule includes the adoption of a Federal Reserve-only interim final rule (covered by InfoBytes here), similarly revising the definition of “eligible retained income” for purposes of the total loss-absorbing capacity rule. The final rule is effective January 1, 2021.
On August 13, the OCC, the Federal Reserve Board, the FDIC, and the NCUA (collectively, the “agencies”) issued a joint statement, which clarifies how the agencies apply the enforcement provisions of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and related anti-money laundering (AML) laws and regulations. Specifically, the statement discusses the conditions that require the issuance of a mandatory cease and desist order under sections 8(s) and 206(q). According to the agencies, there are no new exceptions or standards created by document. Among other things, the statement:
- Provides examples of when an agency shall issue a cease and desist order in accordance with sections 8(s)(3) and 206(q)(3) for “[f]ailure to establish and maintain a reasonably designed BSA/AML Compliance Program. The statement notes that an institution would be subject to a cease and desist order when the one component of their compliance program “fails with respect to either a high-risk area or multiple lines of business… even if the other components or pillars are satisfactory.”
- Describes circumstances in which an agency may use its discretion to issue formal or informal enforcement actions related to unsafe or unsound BSA-related practices. The statement notes that the “form and content” of the enforcement action will depend on a variety factors, including “the capability and cooperation of the institution’s management.”
- Describes how the agencies incorporate customer due diligence regulations and recordkeeping requirements as part of the internal controls pillar of an institutions BSA/AML compliance program.
- Discusses the treatment of isolated or technical compliance program requirements that are generally not issues resulting in an enforcement action.
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.
On August 11, the Federal Reserve Board announced revised pricing for its Municipal Liquidity Facility. The revised pricing reduces the interest rate spread on tax-exempt notes for each credit rating category by 50 basis points and reduces the amount by which the interest rate for taxable notes is adjusted relative to tax-exempt notes. The MLF, originally covered here, was one of several facilities intended to support the flow of credit in the economy.
On August 3, the member agencies of the Federal Financial Institutions Examinations Council (FFIEC) issued a joint statement on managing loan accommodations granted to borrowers pursuant to federal, state, and local law to address Covid-19 related hardships. Specifically, the statement provides risk management and consumer protection principles to financial institutions working with borrowers that are near the end of their initial loan accommodation period. Among other things, the statement outlines:
- Risk Management Practices. The statement encourages financial institutions to institute sound credit risk management practices following an accommodation period, such as “reassess[ing] risk ratings for each loan based on a borrower’s current debt level, current financial condition, repayment ability, and collateral.” Additionally, the statement encourages institutions to provide “clear, accurate, and timely information to borrowers and guarantors regarding the accommodation” being granted.
- Sustainable Accommodations. The statement notes that the Covid-19 pandemic may have “long-term adverse impact[s] on borrower’s future earnings” and financial institutions should consider additional accommodation options to mitigate losses for the borrower and institutions by assessing “each loan based upon the fundamental risk characteristics affecting the collectability of that particular credit.”
- Consumer Protection. The statement encourages financial institutions to provide consumers with options to support repayment at the end of accommodations to avoid delinquencies and to consider offering credit product term changes to “support sustainable and affordable payments for the long term.”
- Accounting and Regulatory Reporting. The statement emphasizes that financial institutions should consider the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic in its allowance for loan and lease losses, or credit losses, estimation processes, consistent with generally accepted accounting principles.
- Internal Control Systems. The statement notes that internal control functions for the end of initial accommodation periods and for additional accommodations typically “include appropriate targeted testing of the process for managing each stage of the accommodation.” Additionally, the statement reminds financial institutions of their responsibility for ensuring service providers in charge of these functions act consistently with the institution’s policies and all applicable laws and regulations.
On July 29, the Federal Reserve Board announced the extensions of its temporary U.S. dollar liquidity swap lines as well as the temporary repurchase agreement facility for foreign and international monetary authorities (FIMA Repo Facility) through March 31, 2021. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the FIMA Repo Facility was established in March in response to the Covid-19 pandemic to allow central banks and other international monetary authorities with accounts at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to enter into repurchase agreements with the Federal Reserve to temporarily exchange their U.S. Treasury securities held with the Federal Reserve for U.S. dollars, which can then be made available to institutions in their jurisdictions.
The Fed notes that the extension “will allow approved FIMA account holders to continue to temporarily exchange their U.S. Treasury securities held with the Federal Reserve for U.S. dollars, which can then be made available to institutions in their jurisdictions.”
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.
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "High standards: Best practices for banking marijuana-related businesses" at the ACAMS AML & Anti-Financial Crime Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Wait wait ... do tell me! Where the panelists answer to you" at the ACAMS AML & Anti-Financial Crime Conference
- Matthew P. Previn and Walter E. Zalenski to discuss "Is valid when made ... valid?" at the Women in Housing & Finance Partner Series webinar
- Warren W. Traiger and Caroline K. Eisner to discuss "CRA modernization and the OCC final rule" at CBA Live
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss "Transnational corruption: A chat with former U.S. federal prosecutors in New York" at Marval Live Talks
- Sherry-Maria Safchuk and Lauren Frank to discuss "New CFPB interpretation on UDAAP" at a California Mortgage Bankers Association Mortgage Quality and Compliance Committee webinar
- Thomas A. Sporkin to discuss "Managing internal investigations and advanced government defense" at the Securities Enforcement Forum
- H Joshua Kotin to discuss "Mortgage servicing in a recession: Early intervention, loss mitigation and more" at the NAFCU Virtual Regulatory Compliance Seminar
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss "Independent monitoring in the United States" at the World Compliance Association Peru Chapter IV International Conference on Compliance and the Fight Against Corruption
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "The future of fair lending" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss "Major litigation" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Kathryn L. Ryan to discuss "Pandemic fallout – Navigating practical operational challenges" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Consumer financial services" at the Practising Law Institute Banking Law Institute