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On July 2, the CFPB announced its prioritization of resources to focus on the role of racial bias in home appraisals. According to the CFPB, undervaluation of homes based on race further drives the racial wealth divide and overvaluation of homes also puts family wealth at risk, leading to higher rates of foreclosure. On June 15, the CFPB hosted a home appraisal bias event where the NCUA, OCC, and HUD discussed insights on the role of racial bias in home appraisals, which led to conversations on how to collaborate with stakeholders in eliminating racial bias and other inequities in housing. The Bureau also noted it is “pleased to participate” in President Biden’s new interagency initiative to address inequity in home appraisals. The announcement offers numerous tools, among other resources, such as a joint housing website for those needing help paying their mortgage or rent, particularly in light of the CDC’s moratorium expiring on July 31, and a link to HUD’s Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity office for victims of appraisal bias.
On June 21, the Federal Financial Institutions Examinations Council (FFIEC) published updated versions of four sections of the Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering (BSA/AML) Examination Manual (Manual), which provides examiners with instructions for assessing a bank or credit union’s BSA/AML compliance program and compliance with BSA regulatory requirements. The revisions can be identified by a 2021 date label on the FFIEC BSA/AML InfoBase and include the following updated sections: International Transportation of Currency or Monetary Instruments Reporting, Purchase and Sale of Monetary Instruments Recordkeeping, Reports of Foreign Financial Accounts, and Special Measures. The FFIEC notes that the “updates should not be interpreted as new instructions or as a new or increased focus on certain areas,” but are intended to “offer further transparency into the examination process and support risk-focused examination work.” In addition, the Manual itself does not establish requirements for financial institutions as these requirements are found in applicable statutes and regulations. (See also FDIC FIL-12-2021 and OCC Bulletin 2021-10.) As previously covered by InfoBytes, in February the FFIEC updated the following sections of the Manual: Assessing Compliance with Bank Secrecy Act Regulatory Requirements, Customer Identification Program, Currency Transaction Reporting, and Transactions of Exempt Persons.
On May 19, the House Financial Services Committee held a hearing entitled “Oversight of Prudential Regulators: Ensuring the Safety, Soundness, Diversity, and Accountability of Depository Institutions.” Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) opened the hearing by expressing her concerns about the “harmful deregulatory actions” taken by the previous administration’s appointees to “roll back key Dodd-Frank reforms and other consumer protections.” She noted, however, that she was pleased that the Senate is moving forward to reverse the OCC’s true lender rule and commented that she has asked House leadership to address the related Congressional Review Act resolution as soon as possible.
Fed Vice Chair for Supervision Randal K. Quarles provided an update on the Fed’s Covid-19 regulatory and supervisory efforts, noting that the Fed has “worked to align [the Fed’s] emergency actions with other relief efforts as the economic situation improves” and is maintaining or extending some measures to promote continued access to credit. When Congresswoman Velazquez inquired how government programs like the Paycheck Protection Program helped to stabilize businesses and improve the overall economy, Quarles answered, “We would have experienced a much deeper and more durable economic contraction, and would have had more lasting economic scarring with closed businesses and defaulting obligations  had those programs not been put in place.”
OCC Comptroller Michael Hsu discussed the agency’s increasing coordination with other federal and state regulators on fintech policy, in addition to OCC efforts to strengthen Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) regulations and address climate change. The OCC has been encouraging innovation, Hsu said, but added that his “broader concern is that these initiatives were not done in full coordination with all stakeholders. Nor do they appear to have been part of a broader strategy related to the regulatory perimeter.” In his written testimony, Hsu emphasized his concerns with providing charters to fintechs, noting that in doing so, it would “convey the benefits of banking without its responsibilities,” but also “that refusing to charter fintechs will encourage growth of another shadow banking system outside the reach of regulators.” Hsu expressed in his oral statement the importance of finding “a way to consider how fintechs and payment platforms fit into the banking system” and emphasized that it must be done in coordination with the FDIC, Fed, and the states. He also explained that “the regulatory community is taking a fragmented agency-by-agency approach to the technology-driven changes taking place today. At the OCC, the focus has been on encouraging responsible innovation. For instance, we updated the framework for chartering national banks and trust companies and interpreted crypto custody services as part of the business of banking.” When Congressman Bill Huizenga (R-MI) asked how the OCC planned to address the “true lender” rule, which would soften the regulations for national banks to sell loans to third parties, Hsu stated that the OCC originally intended to review the rule, but that after the Senate passed S.J.Res. 15 to invoke the Congressional Review Act and provide for congressional disapproval and invalidation of the rule (covered by InfoBytes here), the agency decided to leave it up to congressional deliberation and will monitor it instead.
FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams discussed, among other things, the FDIC’s policy of granting industrial loan company charters. As previously covered by Infobytes, the agency approved a final rule in December 2020 establishing certain conditions and supervisory standards for the parent companies of industrial banks and ILCs. McWilliams defended the FDIC’s new rule during the hearing, stating it “ensures that the parent company serves as a source of financial strength for the ILC while providing clarity about the FDIC's supervisory expectations of both the ILC and its parent company.”
NCUA Chairman Todd Harper also outlined agency measures taken in response to the pandemic. Among other things, Harper noted that the NCUA is supporting low-income credit unions through the Community Development Revolving Loan Fund and that the agency is working to strengthen its Consumer Financial Protection Program (CFPP) to ensure fair and equitable access to credit. During the hearing, Harper stated, “there is an increased emphasis on fair lending compliance, and agency staff are studying methods for improving consumer financial protection supervision for the largest credit unions not primarily supervised by the CFPP.”
On April 9, the Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, and OCC, in consultation with FinCEN and the NCUA, issued a joint statement on the use of risk management principles outlined in the agencies’ “Supervisory Guidance on Model Risk Management” (known as the “model risk management guidance” or MRMG) as it relates to financial institutions’ compliance with Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering (BSA/AML) rules. While the joint statement is “intended to clarify how the MRMG may be a useful resource to guide a bank’s [model risk management] framework, whether formal or informal, and assist with BSA/AML compliance,” the agencies emphasized that the MRMG is nonbinding and does not alter existing BSA/AML legal or regulatory requirements or establish new supervisory expectations. In conjunction with the release of the joint statement, the agencies also issued a request for information (RFI) on the extent to which the principles discussed in the MRMG support compliance by financial institutions with BSA/AML and Office of Foreign Assets Control requirements. The agencies seek comments and information to better understand bank practices in these specific areas and to determine whether additional explanation or clarification may be helpful in increasing transparency, effectiveness, or efficiency. Comments on the RFI are due within 60 days of publication in the Federal Register.
On March 29, the FDIC, Fed, OCC, CFPB, and NCUA issued a request for information (RFI) seeking input on financial institutions’ use of artificial intelligence (AI), which may include AI-based tools and models used for (i) fraud prevention to identify unusual transactions for Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering investigations; (ii) personalization of customer services; (iii) credit underwriting; (iv) risk management; (v) textual analysis; and (vi) cybersecurity. The RFI also solicits information on challenges financial institutions face in developing, adopting, and managing AI, as well as on appropriate governance, risk management, and controls over AI when providing services to customers. Additionally, the agencies seek input on whether it would be helpful to provide additional clarification on using AI in a safe and sound manner and in compliance with applicable laws and regulations. According to FDIC FIL-20-2021, while the agencies support responsible innovation by financial institutions and believe that new technologies, including AI, have “the potential to augment decision-making and enhance services available to consumers and businesses, . . . identifying and managing risks are key.” Comments on the RFI are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
On March 11, the FDIC, OCC, Federal Reserve Board, NCUA, and the Farm Credit Administration issued a notice and request for public comment on 24 proposed interagency questions and answers regarding the 2019 private flood insurance rule (covered by InfoBytes here). The new Q&As supplement interagency questions and answers proposed last year (covered by InfoBytes here), which were intended to reduce compliance burdens for lenders related to flood insurance laws. The new Q&As are designed to help lenders comply with private flood insurance provisions found in the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, and address mandatory and discretionary acceptance of private flood insurance policies by lenders if such insurance is required. Comments on the proposed additions to the interagency Q&As are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
On February 25, the FFIEC published updated versions of four sections of the Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering (BSA/AML) Examination Manual (Manual), which provides examiners with instructions for assessing a bank’s or credit union’s BSA/AML compliance program and compliance with BSA regulatory requirements. The revisions can be identified by a 2021 date on the FFIEC BSA/AML InfoBase and include the following updated sections: Assessing Compliance with Bank Secrecy Act Regulatory Requirements, Customer Identification Program, Currency Transaction Reporting, and Transactions of Exempt Persons. The FFIEC notes that the “updates should not be interpreted as new instructions or as a new or increased focus on certain areas,” but are intended to “offer further transparency into the examination process and support risk-focused examination work.” In addition, the Manual itself does not establish requirements for financial institutions as these requirements are found in applicable statutes and regulations. (See also FDIC FIL-12-2021 and OCC Bulletin 2021-10.)
On February 22, the Federal Reserve Board, OCC, FDIC, NCUA, and the Conference of State Bank Supervisors issued a joint statement covering supervisory practices for financial institutions affected by winter storms in Texas. Among other things, the agencies called on financial institutions to “work constructively” with affected borrowers, noting that “prudent efforts” to adjust or alter 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. Institutions are also encouraged to monitor municipal securities and loans impacted by the winter storms.
Additionally, HUD announced it will make disaster assistance available to Texas by providing foreclosure relief and other assistance to homeowners living in counties affected by the severe winter storms. Specifically, HUD is providing an automatic 90-day moratorium on foreclosures of FHA-insured home mortgages for covered properties in the affected counties and is making mortgage 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 January 19, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, NCUA, and the OCC, in consultation with staff at certain other federal functional regulators, published answers to frequently asked questions concerning suspicious activity reporting (SAR) and other anti-money laundering (AML) considerations. The answers clarify financial institutions’ commonly asked questions about SARs/AML regulatory requirements and are provided to assist financial institutions with their Bank Secrecy Act (BSA)/AML compliance obligations in order to enable them “to focus resources on activities that produce the greatest value to law enforcement agencies and other government users of [BSA] reporting.” Topics discussed include (i) law enforcement requests for financial institutions to maintain accounts; (ii) receipt of grand jury subpoenas and law enforcement inquiries and SAR filings; (iii) maintaining customer relationships following the filing of SARs; (iv) filing SARs based on negative news identified in media searches; (v) information provided in SAR data and narrative fields; and (vi) SAR character limits. The agencies note that the FAQs do not alter existing BSA/AML requirements or establish new supervisory expectations, but have been developed in response to recent recommendations as described more thoroughly in FinCEN’s Advance Notice or Proposed Rulemaking issued last September on AML program effectiveness (covered by InfoBytes here).
On January 14, the CFPB announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the NCUA, which is intended to improve supervision coordination of credit unions with over $10 billion in assets. According to the Bureau’s press release, the MOU covers (i) the sharing of the Covered Reports of Examination and final Reports of Examination for covered institutions, using secure, two-way electronic means; (ii) collaboration in semi-annual strategy planning sessions for examination coordination; (iii) information sharing on training activities and content; and (iv) information sharing related to potential enforcement actions.
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to provide “Fair lending update” at the Colorado Mortgage Lenders Association Operational and Compliance Forum
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Justice for all: Achieving racial equity through fair lending” at CBA Live
- Warren W. Traiger to discuss “On the horizon for CRA modernization” at CBA Live
- APPROVED Webcast: Strategy & Technology: A dynamic duo for successful regulatory exams
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss “Primer on cross-border prosecutions in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico for U.S. criminal lawyers” at a New York City Bar Association webinar
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Fair lending" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss “State law regulatory and enforcement trends” at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Government investigations, and compliance 2021 trends” at the Corporate Counsel Women of Color Career Strategies Conference
- Max Bonici to discuss “BSA/AML trends: What to expect with the implementation of the AML Act of 2020” at the American Bar Association Banking Law Fall Meeting
- H Joshua Kotin to discuss “Modifications and exiting forbearance” at the National Association of Federal Credit Unions Regulatory Compliance Seminar
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Fintech trends” at the BIHC Network Elevating Black Excellence Regional Summit
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Consumer financial services" at the Practising Law Institute Banking Law Institute