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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

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  • Agencies release host state loan-to-deposit ratios

    On June 28, the FDIC, Federal Reserve Board, and OCC (collectively, "the agencies") released the current host state loan-to-deposit ratios for each state or territory, which the agencies use to determine compliance with Section 109 of the Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking and Branching Efficiency Act of 1994 (Interstate Act). Under the Interstate Act, banks are prohibited from establishing or acquiring branches outside of their home state for the primary purpose of deposit production. Branches of banks controlled by out-of-state bank holding companies are also subject to the same restriction. Determining compliance with Section 109 requires a comparison of a bank’s estimated statewide loan-to-deposit ratio to the estimated host state loan-to-deposit ratio. If a bank’s statewide ratio is less than one-half of the published host-state ratio, an additional review is required by the appropriate agency, which involves a determination of whether a bank is reasonably helping to meet the credit needs of the communities served by the bank’s interstate branches.

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues OCC FDIC Bank Compliance Federal Reserve Riegle-Neal Act

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  • 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.

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Reserve Payments Payment Systems Federal Reserve Banks

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  • Fed announces enforcement actions against Minnesota and Arkansas state banks

    On June 21, the Federal Reserve Board released civil penalty orders against two state banks, both relating to alleged violations of the National Flood Insurance Act (NFIA) and its implementing regulation, Regulation H. The first civil penalty order, against a Minnesota-based bank, assessed a $4,950 penalty for an alleged pattern or practice of violations of Regulation H but does not specify the number or the precise nature of the alleged violations. The second civil penalty order, against an Arkansas-based bank, assessed a $13,950 penalty for an alleged pattern or practice of violations of Regulation H without specifying the number or precise nature of the alleged violations. The maximum civil money penalty under the NFIA for a pattern or practice of violations is $2,000 per violation.

    Bank Regulatory Federal Reserve Flood Insurance Enforcement National Flood Insurance Act Regulation H

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  • CFPB to look at late fees on cards

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On June 22, the CFPB issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) soliciting information from credit card issuers, consumer groups, and the public regarding credit card late fees and late payments, and card issuers’ revenue and expenses. Under the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (CARD Act) rules inherited by the CFPB from the Federal Reserve, credit card late fees must be “reasonable and proportional” to the costs incurred by the issuer as a result of a late payment. However, the rules provide for a safe harbor limit that allows banks to charge certain fees, adjusted for inflation, regardless of the costs incurred. Calling the current credit card late fees “excessive,” the Bureau stated it intends to review the “immunity provision” to understand how banks that rely on this safe harbor set their fees and to examine whether banks are escaping enforcement scrutiny “if they set fees at a particular level, even if the fees were not necessary to deter a late payment and generated excess profits.”

    In 2010, the Federal Reserve Board approved implementing regulations for the CARD Act that allowed credit card issuers to charge a maximum late fee, plus an additional fee for each late payment within the next six billing cycles (subject to an annual inflation adjustment). As the CFPB reported, the safe harbor limits are currently set at $30 and $41 respectively. The CFPB pointed out that in 2020, credit card companies charged $12 billion in late fee penalties. “Credit card late fees are big revenue generators for card issuers. We want to know how the card issuers determine these fees and whether existing rules are undermining the reforms enacted by Congress over a decade ago,” CFPB Director Rohit Chopra said. Chopra issued a separate statement on the same day discussing the current credit card market, questioning whether it is appropriate for card issuers to receive enforcement immunity if they hike the cost of credit card late fees each year by the rate of inflation. “Do the costs to process late payments really increase with inflation? Or is it more reasonable to expect that costs are going down with further advancements in technology every year?” he asked.

    Among other things, the ANPRM requests information relevant to certain CARD Act and Regulation Z provisions related to credit card late fees to “determine whether adjustments are needed.” The CFPB’s areas of inquiry include: (i) factors used by card issuers to determine late fee amounts and how the fee relates to the statement balance; (ii) whether revenue goals play a role in card issuers’ determination of late fees; (iii) what the costs and losses associated with late payments are for card issuers; (iv) the deterrent effects of late fees and whether other consequences are imposed when payments are late; (v) methods used by card issuers to facilitate or encourage timely payments such as autopay and notifications; (vi) how late are most cardholders’ late payments; and (vii) card issuers’ annual revenue and expenses related to their domestic consumer credit card operations. The Bureau stated that public input will inform revisions to Regulation Z, which implements the CARD Act and TILA. Comments on the ANPRM are due July 22.

    The ANPRM follows a June 17 Bureau blog post announcing the agency’s intention to review a “host of rules” inherited from other agencies such as the FTC and the Federal Reserve, including the CARD Act. (Covered by InfoBytes here.)

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Issues Bank Regulatory CFPB Consumer Finance Federal Reserve CARD Act Regulation Z Fees Credit Cards

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  • CFPB revising its rulemaking approach

    Federal Issues

    On June 17, CFPB Director Rohit Chopra announced in a blog post that the agency plans to move away from overly complicated and tailored rules. “Complexity creates unintended loopholes, but it also gives companies the ability to claim there is a loophole with creative lawyering,” Chopra said. The Bureau’s plan to implement simple, durable bright-line guidance and rules will better communicate the agency’s expectations and will provide numerous other benefits, he added.

    With regards to traditional rulemaking, the Bureau outlined several priorities, which include focusing on implementing longstanding Congressional directives related to consumer access to financial records, increased transparency in the small business lending marketplace, and quality control standards for automated valuation models under Sections 1033, 1071, and 1473(q) of the Dodd-Frank Act. Additionally, the Bureau stated it will assess whether it should use Congressional authority to register certain nonbank financial companies to identify potential violators of federal consumer financial laws.

    Chopra also announced that the Bureau is reviewing a “host of rules” that it inherited from other agencies such as the FTC and the Federal Reserve. “Many of these rules have now been tested in the marketplace for many years and are in need of a fresh look,” Chopra said. Specifically, the Bureau will (i) review rules originated by the Fed under the 2009 Credit CARD Act (including areas related to “enforcement immunity and inflation provisions when imposing penalties on customers”); (ii) review rules inherited from the FTC for implementing the FCRA to identify possible enhancements and changes in business practices; and (iii) review its own Qualified Mortgage Rules to assess aspects of the “seasoning provisions” (covered by a Buckley Special Alert) and explore ways “to spur streamlined modification and refinancing in the mortgage market.”

    The Bureau noted that it also plans to increase its interpretation of existing laws through its Advisory Opinion program and will continue to issue Consumer Financial Protection Circulars to provide additional clarity and encourage consistent enforcement of consumer financial laws among government agencies (covered by InfoBytes here and here).

    Federal Issues Bank Regulatory CFPB Consumer Finance FTC Federal Reserve Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CARD Act Consumer Reporting Agency Qualified Mortgage Dodd-Frank Nonbank FCRA AVMs Mortgages Credit Cards

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  • Acting FDIC Chairman Gruenberg outlines CRA NPRM

    On June 13, acting FDIC Chairman Martin J. Gruenberg provided remarks before the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) regarding the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). In his remarks, Gruenberg discussed “ten important provisions” in the rule proposed by the Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, and OCC in May. As previously covered by InfoBtytes, the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) updates how CRA activities qualify for consideration, where CRA activities are considered, and how CRA activities are evaluated. Calling the CRA “the foundation of responsible finance for low- and moderate-income communities in the United States,” Gruenberg noted that the “NPRM would significantly expand the scope and rigor of CRA and assure its continued relevance for the next generation.” To expand the scope of the CRA, he explained that the NPRM would “establish new retail lending assessment areas to allow for CRA evaluation in communities where a bank may be engaging in significant lending activity but where the bank does not have a branch.” He also noted that the NPRM would “raise the bar for CRA performance on the retail lending test in order for a bank to earn an outstanding or high satisfactory rating.” With respect to greater clarity for CRA evaluations, Gruenberg said that the NPRM would “clearly define community development activities by establishing eleven proposed categories of community development.” Regarding minority depository institutions, Gruenberg said that the NPRM “creates a specific community development definition for eligible activities, such as investments, loan participations, and other ventures conducted by all banks with these institutions.” Additionally, he noted that the NPRM would address credit or banking deserts, including rural areas, native lands, and areas of persistent poverty, and would encourage the retention or establishment of branches in low-to-moderate-income communities and low-cost transaction accounts.

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues FDIC Federal Reserve OCC CRA MDI

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  • Hsu highlights importance of MDIs, CDFIs

    On June 9, acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael J. Hsu spoke before the 2022 Community Development Bankers Association Peer Forum to discuss agency efforts to support underserved communities, as well as initiatives for revitalizing Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) and increasing investments in Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs). Emphasizing the important role MDIs and CDFIs play in providing mortgage credit, small business lending, and other banking services to minority and low-to-moderate-income (LMI) communities, Hsu discussed ongoing challenges facing MDIs in terms of accessing capital and meeting customer needs. He noted that these challenges have caused many MDIs to close, fail, or be acquired by larger banks. Ensuring the survival of the remaining MDIs is important, Hsu said, since these are often the only financial institutions fulfilling minority communities’ financial needs. He further explained that the OCC is “doubling down” on Project REACh, which brings together leaders from the banking industry, national civil rights organizations, and various businesses and technology organizations to identify and reduce barriers to accessing capital and credit (covered by InfoBytes here), and stated that Project REACh has “challenged large and midsize banks to sign a pledge to revitalize MDIs with capital investments, technical assistance, business opportunities, executive training, and other resources.” Hsu also discussed recently proposed interagency rules to modernize enforcement of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), which will also benefit MDIs and CDFIs. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, and OCC issued a joint notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) in May 2022 to update how CRA activities qualify for consideration, where CRA activities are considered, and how CRA activities are evaluated.

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues OCC CDFI MDI Underserved CRA Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Reserve FDIC

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  • Special Alert: Fed finalizes rule for FedNow platform

    The Federal Reserve Board recently issued a final rule for its FedNow instant-payments platform that offers more clarity on how the new service will work while essentially adopting the proposed rule. FedNow will stand alongside private sector initiatives and, like more modern payments systems, will feature credit payments to push funds rather than debit payments to pull funds, offering faster processing.

    Highlights of the new rule and FedNow

    • Not yet open for business. The Fed continues to target release of FedNow for sometime in 2023. It will implement the 24x7x365 real-time payments service in stages, each with additional features and enhancements.
       
    • Not a consumer or business app or service. Depository institutions that are eligible to hold Reserve Bank accounts will be able to use FedNow, which will be administered by the 12 Reserve Banks. Consumers and businesses may not participate in FedNow directly, and therefore, could not send payment orders to a Reserve Bank through it. They would instead send instant payments through their depository institution accounts.
       
    • Bank vnonbank direct participation in FedNow. Eligible institutions include banks, savings associations, credit unions, U.S. branches and agencies of non-U.S. banks, Edge or agreement corporations, some systemically important financial market utilities, and government-sponsored entities (including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac). We use the term “banks” throughout to simplify the discussion.

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Special Alerts Federal Reserve FedNow Payments Regulation J Bank Compliance

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  • Fed publishes financial sector liabilities

    On June 6, the Federal Reserve Board published a notice in the Federal Register regarding Regulation XX (Concentration Limit) to announce that the Fed will publish the aggregate financial sector liabilities by July 1 of each year. Regulation XX generally “prohibits a merger or acquisition that would result in a financial company that controls more than 10 percent of the aggregate consolidated liabilities of all financial companies (‘aggregate financial sector liabilities’).” The Fed explained in the notice that aggregate financial sector liabilities are “equal to the average of the year-end financial sector liabilities figure (as of December 31) of each of the preceding two calendar years.”

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues Federal Reserve Federal Register Regulation XX Bank Mergers

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  • Brainard discusses central bank digital currency at House hearing

    Federal Issues

    On May 25, Fed Governor Lael Brainard spoke before the U.S. House Financial Services Committee in a virtual hearing titled “Digital Assets and the Future of Finance: Examining the Benefits and Risks of a U.S. Central Bank Digital Currency.” According to the Committee’s memorandum regarding the hearing, the Fed defines a central bank digital currency (CBDC) as a “digital liability of a central bank that is widely available to the general public,” and though definitions vary, “understanding what distinguishes cryptocurrency from fiat government-issued currency is fundamental.” The memorandum also discussed the Fed’s publication of a discussion paper in January, Money and Payments: The U.S. Dollar in the Age of Digital Transformation, which calls for public comments on questions related to the possibility of a U.S. CBDC (covered by InfoBytes here). In Brainard’s prepared statement, she noted that the “rapid ongoing evolution” of digital assets “should lead us to frame the question not as to whether there is a need for a central bank-issued digital dollar today, but rather whether there may be conditions in the future that may give rise to such a need.” Brainard also stated that “there are risks of not acting, just as there are risks of acting.” While there has not been a decision on creating a U.S. CBDC, Brainard stated that “it is important to undertake the necessary work to inform any such decision and to be ready to move forward should the need arise.” Additionally, Brainard pointed to recent pressure on two widely used stablecoins and resulting market turmoil that “underscore the need for clear regulatory guardrails to provide consumer and investor protection, protect financial stability, and ensure a level playing field for competition and innovation across the financial system.” Brainard further stated that a U.S. CBDC could be a potential “way to ensure that people around the world who use the dollar can continue to rely on the strength and safety of the U.S. currency to transact and conduct business in the digital financial system.”

    Federal Issues House Financial Services Committee Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Digital Assets Cryptocurrency Federal Reserve Bank Regulatory CBDC Fintech

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