OCC to Consider Fintech Charter Applications; Seeks Comment

On December 2, the OCC announced that it would move forward with considering applications from financial technology (Fintech) companies to become special-purpose national banks. In prepared remarks delivered at the Georgetown University Law Center, Comptroller of the Currency Thomas Curry explained, among other things, that “having a clear process, criteria, and standards for Fintechs to become national banks ensures regulators and companies openly vet risks and that the institutions that receive charters have a reasonable chance of success.”

Accompanying his decision, the OCC published a paper discussing the issues and conditions that the agency will consider in granting special purpose national bank charters. According to the paper, in order to apply for a special-purpose charter, a company must engage in fiduciary activities, or one of the three core banking functions: lending money, paying checks or receiving deposits. The paper is available on the agency’s website at www.occ.gov and comments may be submitted through January 15, 2017.

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FCC Denies Petition by MBA to Exempt Certain Mortgage Servicing Calls from Prior Express Consent Requirement

In an order dated November 15, the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau denied a petition by the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) that sought an exemption from the FCC’s prior express consent requirement for non-telemarketing residential mortgage servicing auto-dialer calls to wireless numbers. In its order, the Bureau concluded that MBA had failed to show (1) that the calls in question would be free of charge to consumers; and (2) that the parties seeking relief should be able to send non-time-sensitive calls to consumers without their consent.

Among other things, the Order explained that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) “reflects Congress’ recognition of the potential costs and privacy risks imposed on wireless consumers from the use of auto-dialer equipment, which can generate large numbers of unwanted calls” and accordingly, the FCC has generally attempted to balance and accommodate the legitimate business interests of callers in addition to recognized consumer privacy interests.

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CFPB Issues Advisory Bulletin on Detecting and Preventing Consumer Harm from Production Incentives

In a November 28 advisory bulletin entitled Detecting and Preventing Consumer Harm from Production Incentives, the CFPB highlights examples from its supervisory and enforcement experience in which incentives contributed to substantial consumer harm. The bulletin also describes compliance management steps that supervised entities should take to mitigate risks posed by incentives. Among other things, the CFPB clarifies that it is not outlawing sales incentives or other similar programs, but rather is cautioning companies that such programs can lead to abuse. As explained in the bulletin, “[t]ying bonuses or employment status to unrealistic sales goals or to the terms of transactions may intentionally or unintentionally encourage illegal practices such as unauthorized account openings, unauthorized opt-ins to overdraft services, deceptive sales tactics, and steering consumers into less favorable products.”

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FHFA Increases Conforming Loan Limits for 2017

Last week, on November 23, the FHFA announced that it will raise the maximum conforming loan limits for mortgages purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2017 from $417,000 to $424,000. The announcement marks the first time FHFA has increased the baseline loan limit since 2006. In high-cost areas, such as Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., the maximum loan limit will be $636,150. Meanwhile, limits rose in all but 87 counties in the country. View the list of counties seeing increases here.

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Comptroller Curry Discusses Importance of Effective Supervision Before Clearing House Annual Conference

In prepared remarks delivered on November 30 before The Clearing House Annual Conference in New York City, Comptroller of the Currency Thomas J. Curry discussed lessons from the 2008 financial crisis. Curry noted that he was “often disappointed how quickly some forget the lessons of more recent events, particularly what brought the financial system to the cliff in 2008 and what has put our banks and our economy on much firmer ground since.” His remarks emphasized the value of strong capital, the need for ample liquidity, and the importance of effective supervision.

In discussing capital, Curry noted that since the beginning of 2009, there has been a $700 billion increase in common equity capital. Such levels would allow the 33 largest bank holding companies to be well capitalized and continue lending even under the most severe scenario used by the banking agencies’ stress tests. He cautioned, however, that “[w]eakening the ratio through special exclusions only undermines our original intent and weakens the protection against excessive leverage.” Comptroller Curry similarly noted that the Liquidity Coverage Ratio and the proposed Net Stable Funding Ratio complement each other to push covered banks to hold ready resources to meet short-term cash outflows and to shift to more stable, longer-term funding.

On the subject of supervision, Curry noted the importance of “holistic supervision based on the CAMELS rating system.” He also added that while a periodic reassessment of banking laws and regulations is appropriate, “we must never settle for ‘light-touch’ supervision.” And, in concluding, Curry stressed that community banks and their examiners, in order to “remain strong and healthy,” need to “focus on strategic risk, rising credit risk from stretching for yield while relaxing underwriting standards, expansion of new technologies, and compliance issues.”

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