On February 24, the FDIC announced fourth quarter earnings for all federally insured institutions, with substantial increases in community bank earnings. Community bank earnings for the fourth quarter rose $1.0 billion to $4.8 billion (an increase of approximately 28% from the previous year). Comparatively, FDIC-insured banks and savings institutions as a whole earned $36.9 billion in the fourth quarter, which is a decrease of 7.3% from the industry’s earnings a year before. The surge in earnings was attributed to higher net interest income, increased noninterest income, and higher loan growth.
On February 25, OCC Deputy Comptroller Darrin Benhart delivered remarks at the 16th Annual Global Association of Risk Professionals (GARP) Risk Management Conference on the OCC’s efforts to improve its ability to “identify, monitor, and respond to emerging risks” that continue to affect the financial services industry. Benhart highlighted the newly formed Supervision Risk Management team, emphasizing its work with the OCC’s National Risk Committee in monitoring emerging threats to the safety and soundness of the federal banking system. More significantly, Benhart commented on the agency’s growing concern with banks’ recent re-evaluations of their business models as they pursue “new ways to generate returns against the backdrop of low interest rates.” In light of this concern, Benhart cautioned bank management to consider the following three risk management areas when assessing potential updates to their existing business models: (i) concentration risk management – ensure that concentrations for financial institutions are effectively identified and measured to prevent heightened credit, interest rate, liquidity, or operational risks; (ii) correlation risk – recognize that the impact of the risk goes beyond the obvious affected borrowers and should focus as well on those indirectly correlated borrowers for whom the exposure is often more difficult to measure and understand; and (iii) over-reliance on historical performance – acknowledge that the financial environment can change and “paradigms can shift.”
On March 3, the Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Federal Reserve Accountability and Reform.” The hearing comes after Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher’s February 13 remarks on the growing concern regarding the Federal Reserve’s current governance structure. Additionally, Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) “Audit the Fed” proposed legislation has brought increased attention to the transparency of the Federal Reserve operations and monetary policy. Scheduled witnesses for the hearing include Dr. John B. Taylor of Stanford University and Dr. Paul Kupiec of American Enterprise Institute.
On February 24, the White House released a number of intended nominations for key Administration posts. Among the anticipated nominations were (i) Amias Gerety as Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions, Department of the Treasury; and (ii) Cono R. Namorato as Assistant AG for the Tax Division, Department of Justice. Gerety began his career at Treasury in 2009 as Senior Advisor in the Office of Financial Institutions, and since June 2014, has served as Counselor in the Office of Domestic Finance. Namorato, currently in private practice, previously held various positions within the DOJ’s Tax Division and the Department of Treasury including serving as Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Director of the Office of Professional Responsibility for the IRS, respectively.
On February 25, New York DFS Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky delivered remarks at Columbia Law School focusing on how state bank regulators can better supervise financial institutions in a post-financial crisis era. In his remarks, Lawsky stated that “real deterrence” to future misconduct “means a focus not just on corporate accountability, but on individual accountability” at the senior executive level. Lawsky also highlighted measures that DFS is considering to prevent money laundering including conducting random audits of regulated firms’ “transaction monitoring and filtering systems” and making senior executives attest to the adequacy of the systems. Lastly, Lawsky outlined several cybersecurity initiatives and considerations that would require third-party vendors to have cybersecurity protections and regulations in place that would mandate the use of “multi-factor authentication” systems for DFS regulated firms.
On February 26, New York AG Eric Schneiderman announced that he intends to propose state legislation to reward and protect employees who report information about misconduct in the banking, insurance, and financial services industries. The “Financial Frauds Whistleblower Act” would allow for compensation to individuals who voluntarily report fraud, and whose information results in more than $1 million in penalties or settlement. In addition, the legislation would prohibit retaliation from the employer and guarantee the confidentiality of the whistleblower’s information.
On February 18, Steven Antonakes, Deputy Director of the CFPB, delivered remarks before the Exchequer Club of Washington, D.C. regarding the CFPB’s risk-focused supervision program. In his remarks, Antonakes identified two key differences that distinguish the CFPB from other regulatory agencies: (i) there is a “focus on risks to consumers rather than risks to institutions;” and (ii) examinations are conducted by product line rather than an “institution-centric approach.” Antonakes further stated that the agency uses field and market intelligence, which includes both qualitative and quantitative factors for each product line, such as the strength of compliance management systems, findings from CFPB’s prior examinations, the existence of other regulatory actions, the consumer complaints received, and metrics gathered from public reports, to adequately assess risks to consumers from an institution’s activity in any given market. After the review period, an institution will receive a “roll-up examination report” or a “supervisory plan,” depending on size, that will summarize the findings of the review. If corrective action is warranted, a review committee will assess violation-focused factors, institution-focused factors, and policy-focused factors to determine whether the examination should be resolved through a supervisory action or a public enforcement action.
On February 20, the OCC announced that it would be removing the “Deposited-Related Consumer Credit” booklet, originally issued on February 11, from its website. The OCC’s February 11 booklet seemingly required banks to change overdraft protection services, however the agency has since stated that the booklet was not intended to establish new policy. According to the OCC’s website, the agency will “[revise] the booklet to clarify and restate the existing law, rules, and policy.” When the OCC releases its amended version of the booklet, we will update the February 16 Special Alert to reflect the agency’s modifications.
On February 19, the FDIC released a study showing that brick-and-mortar banking offices continue to be the principal means through which banks deliver services to customers, despite increased growth in the use of online and mobile banking. The study found that four main factors have contributed to the changes in the number and distribution of banking offices since 1935: (i) population growth and geographic shifts in population; (ii) banking crises; (iii) legislative changes to branching laws; and (iv) technological innovation and increased use of electronic banking. Notwithstanding the increase of online and mobile banking, the study found that visiting brick-and-mortar banking offices continues to be the most common way for customers to access their accounts and obtain financial services.
On February 18, three federal banking agencies – the Federal Reserve Board, OCC, and FDIC – issued a joint notice seeking public comments on a proposed information collection form and its reporting requirements, FFIEC 102 – “Market Risk Regulatory Report for Institutions Subject to the Market Risk Capital Rule.” If finalized, market risk institutions will be required to file the proposed FFIEC 102 to allow the agencies to, among other things, assess “the reasonableness and accuracy of the institution’s calculation of its minimum capital requirements . . . and . . . the institution’s capital in relation to its risks.” The proposed FFIEC 102 sets forth reporting instructions for financial institutions to which the market risk capital rule applies, and specifies that reporting requirements would take effect starting March 31, 2015. Comments to the proposal must be submitted on or before March 20.
On February 13, the FDIC released the third and final technical assistance video intended to assist bank employees to comply with certain mortgage rules issued by the CFPB. The final video addresses the Mortgage Servicing Rules and the “Small Servicer” exemption. The first video, released on November 19, 2014, covered the ATR/QM Rule, and the second video, released on January 27, covered the Loan Originator Compensation Rule.
Special Alert: OCC Guidance Applies Consumer Protection Requirements to Overdraft Lines and Protection Services
UPDATE: On February 20, the OCC announced that it would be removing the “Deposited-Related Consumer Credit” booklet, originally issued on February 11, from its website. The OCC’s February 11 booklet seemingly required banks to change overdraft protection services, however the agency has since stated that the booklet was not intended to establish new policy. According to the OCC’s website, the agency will “[revise] the booklet to clarify and restate the existing law, rules, and policy.” When the OCC releases its amended version of the booklet, we will update the February 16 Special Alert to reflect the agency’s modifications.
On February 11, 2015, the OCC issued the “Deposit-Related Consumer Credit” booklet of the Comptroller’s Handbook, which replaced the “Check Credit” booklet. The booklet provides updated guidance and examination procedures that the OCC will use to assess a bank’s deposit-related consumer credit (DRCC) products, which include check credit (overdraft lines of credit, cash reserves, and special drafts), overdraft protection services, and deposit advances. In many respects, it tracks the CFPB’s proposed prepaid rule, which would apply the Truth-in-Lending Act and Regulation Z to a broad range of credit features associated with prepaid products. Read more…
On February 11, Richard W. Fisher, outgoing President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, delivered remarks before the Economic Club of New York in New York City. In his remarks, he outlined four proposals to address concerns regarding the Fed’s independence and of critics who feel too much authority is concentrated in the New York Fed. His four proposals: (i) Rotate the Vice Chairmanship of the FOMC (currently the NY Fed President is the FOMC’s permanent vice-chair); (ii) supervise and regulate systemically important financial institutions (SIFIs) by Federal Reserve Bank staff from a district other than the one in which the SIFI is located; (iii) grant Federal Reserve Bank Presidents an equal number of votes as Fed Governors, with each getting six votes, and this would replace the current system where the NY Fed gets a permanent vote and the remaining 11 Reserve Banks get four votes, with Cleveland and Chicago voting every two years and the remaining Reserve Banks voting every three years; and (iv) require the Chair of the Federal Reserve hold a press conference after every FOMC meeting. Currently, the Chair holds a press conference every quarter.
On February 10, officials from federal and state banking authorities – the Fed, FDIC, NCUA, OCC, and the CSBS – testified at a U.S. Senate Banking Committee on ways the agencies can provide “regulatory relief” to community banks and credit unions, which disproportionately incur burdens to implement the rules and provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act. Specifically, officials from each of the federal banking agencies detailed current initiatives and proposals that would provide less burdensome compliance costs.
On February 2, a major bank agreed to a $500 million settlement to resolve years of litigation surrounding the sale of mortgage securities by Bear Stearns, which the company acquired. In re: Bear Stearns Mortgage Pass-Through Certificates Litigation, No. 1:08-cv-08093-LTS (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 2, 2015). The litigation concerned the sale of $17.58 billion in mortgage securities by Bear Stearns, and alleged that the former investment bank “misrepresented the quality of the loans in the loan pools.” Although investors did not accuse Bear Stearns of fraud, they alleged that it was strictly liable and negligent for the losses incurred, evidenced by the downgrading of most mortgage certificates from a AAA rating to below investment grade, or “junk” status. In the settlement, the New York-based institution denied any wrongdoing relating to the mortgage sales of Bear Stearns, which occurred during 2006-2007 prior to acquisition.