On April 16, Comptroller of the Currency Thomas Curry spoke to attendees of the Consumer Electronics Show Government Conference, taking his concerns about banks’ vendor relationships and cybersecurity risks to potential third-party technology service providers. Comptroller Curry explained the banking system’s vulnerability to cyberattacks given its significant reliance on technology and telecommunications, and expressed particular concern about potential attacks on community banks. He reiterated several of the specific risk issues he recently discussed with community bankers. Comptroller Curry (i) outlined risks related to the consolidation of bank vendors; (ii) identified as a “special problem” banks’ reliance on foreign vendors, and cautioned banks to consider the legal and regulatory implications of where their data is stored or transmitted; and (iii) expressed concern about vendors’ access to important and confidential bank and customer data. He assured attendees that the OCC is not trying to discourage the use of third-party vendors, but in explaining the OCC’s particular focus on controls and risk management practices employed by vendors that provide services to banks and thrifts, Comptroller Curry advised vendors of the OCC’s authority under the Bank Service Company Act to issue enforcement actions and its authority to examine vendors designated as Technology Service Providers. He reported that banks have asked the OCC to more actively supervise critical service providers and stated that in working to protect the banking system the OCC will have to “look beyond individual financial institutions to the range of vendors and customers that have access to some part of its infrastructure and systems.”
On September 23, Federal Reserve Governor Jerome Powell spoke at the second annual Community Banking Research and Policy Conference, co-sponsored by the Federal Reserve and Conference of State Bank Supervisors. Governor Powell commented on the decline in the number of community banks over the past three decades, stating those remaining community banks have “struggled to survive” in the face of significant challenges, including the burden of regulatory compliance. The research presented at the conference focused on the following four main issues: (i) bank formation, behavior, and performance; (ii) the effects specific government policy has on community bank behavior; (iii) the effects government policy has on the profitability and viability of community banks; and (iv) how regulatory policy affects the structure of the U.S. banking system and the viability of community banks.
Over the past week, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed several bills impacting banks and certain consumer finance providers. The first bill, HB 358 repealed a state law that that barred out-of-state banks from opening de novo branches in Virginia unless the bank’s home state provided reciprocal access to Virginia banks. The change will allow out-of-state banks to establish branches in Virginia on the same basis as state-chartered banks. A second banking bill, HB 1062, provides that an existing statutory provision requiring the Virginia State Corporation Commission to ascertain that certain minimum capital stock requirements are met prior to issuing a certificate of authority to a bank does not apply to the Commission’s issuance of such a certificate to a bank holding company or to a resulting bank in connection with certain types of mergers involving the holding company and its subsidiary bank. A third bill, HB 69, amends state law to expand the types of services that may be provided under an extended motor vehicle service contract and to authorize the Board of Agriculture and Consumer Services to designate additional services that may be provided under an extended service contract. The bill also provides that extended service contracts are not insurance subject to state regulation as such. The above approved bills will take effect on July 1, 2014. Finally, the Governor has not yet approved a bill passed by the General Assembly, HB 954, which would permit the State Corporation Commission to issue transitional mortgage loan originator licenses.
On January 15, the CFPB published a notice seeking applications for appointment to its Consumer Advisory Board, Community Bank Advisory Council, and Credit Union Advisory Council. Membership of the Community Advisory Board and Advisory Councils includes representatives of consumers, communities, the financial services industry, and academics. Membership on the two Advisory Councils is open only to current community bank and credit union employees, respectively. Applications must be submitted by February 28, 2014. Additional information about the application process is available here.
On January 8, House Financial Services Committee chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) and committee member Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced a bill, H.R. 3819, that would clarify that the Volcker Rule will not require banking institutions to divest their ownership in Trust Preferred Securities (TruPS) collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) that were issued before the date of the final Volcker Rule, December 10, 2013. A group of Republican Senators also announced a bill, the text of which was not immediately available. As recently reported, federal regulators are reviewing whether it is appropriate and consistent with the Dodd-Frank Act to fully exempt TruPS CDOs from the Volcker Rule prohibitions on ownership of covered funds. On January 7, a group of House Democrats sent a letter to the regulators urging them to exempt banks with less than $15 billion in assets from the Volcker TruPS CDO divestiture requirement.
On December 30, the FDIC responded to a recent joint letter from the AABD and ICBA expressing concern with the lack of new bank charters and proposing policy reforms to encourage more de novo applications. As the trade groups pointed out, the FDIC has only approved deposit insurance for one de novo bank since 2011, a dramatic shift from many years of de novo bank formation averaging over 170 per year. FDIC Director Doreen Eberley acknowledged the concern, but defended FDIC policy and cited cyclical conditions as a potential explanation for the current situation rather than any FDIC policy change. Ms. Eberley reasserted the FDIC’s commitment to assisting with potential de novo community bank formations.
On September 24, the CFPB released an additional mortgage rule implementation resource, entitled the Small Creditor Qualified Mortgages Flowchart. The flowchart walks small creditors through a series of questions to help those institutions determine the types of qualified mortgages they can originate. The chart is included on the CFPB’s broader mortgage rule implementation resources website.
Last week, a group of 31 Republican House Members reportedly submitted a letter to the DOJ and FDIC accusing the agencies of “intimidating some community banks and third party payment processors with threats of heightened regulatory scrutiny unless they cease doing business with online lenders.” According to reports, the letter argues that the government’s actions effectively cut off access to lawful, short-term, high-interest loans available online. Several prominent online lenders have reportedly ceased their lending operations in response to similar pressure from state regulators.
On August 6, the FDIC released a technical assistance video intended to provide community bank management teams with information about regulatory issues and proposed regulatory changes related to interest rate risk. The FDIC plans to release five additional videos over the next five months that will cover fair lending, appraisals and evaluations, troubled debt restructurings and the allowance for loan and lease losses, evaluation of municipal securities, and flood insurance coverage.
On July 11, the Federal Reserve Board announced that Governor Elizabeth Duke submitted her resignation effective August 31, 2013. She was appointed to the Board in August 2008 to fill a term that expired January 31, 2012. During her time on the Federal Reserve Board, Ms. Duke, a former community banker, focused on housing issues and financial regulation, including with regard to the impact of such regulation on community banks. For example, last year she cautioned regulators about the potential impact of the various mortgage and capital rules on small institutions. Ms. Duke, who also previously led the American Bankers Association, did not indicate her future plans.
On June 13, the OCC published a booklet titled “A Common Sense Approach to Community Banking,” which offers best practices the agency believes distinguish high-performing community banks from those that barely survive or fail. The booklet, which previously was distributed to national banks and federal thrifts and now is available on the OCC’s website, focuses on three interrelated areas: (i) risk assessment and management, (ii) strategic planning, and (iii) capital planning. Earlier in the week, the OCC hosted a webinar on cyber threats and vulnerabilities to raise awareness for community banks, and provided a collection of existing regulatory guidance that addresses actions banks should take to help mitigate the risks associated with information security.
On May 2, the CSBS released its 2012 annual report, which aggregates and reviews the organization’s activities in the prior year, identifies future goals for the organization, and outlines specific priorities for 2013. The paper also incorporates more focused reports on past and future activities by various CSBS divisions and boards, including a report from the Policy and Supervision Division that reviews bank supervision, consumer protection and non-bank supervision, and legislative and regulatory policy, including the CSBS positions on community bank regulatory relief and federal proposed capital rules.
On April 12, the CFPB proposed a rule to amend aspects of its January 10, 2013 final rule on escrow account requirements for first-lien higher-priced mortgage loans (HPMLs). That rule expands existing escrow requirements for such loans and creates a new exemption for small creditors that operate predominantly in rural or underserved areas. The proposal explains that the CFPB did not intend for the escrow rule to state that the CFPB will designate or determine which counties are rural or underserved. Instead, the CFPB intended to require determinations of rural or underserved status to be made by creditors, but also intended for the CFPB to apply both tests to each U.S. county and publish an annual list of counties that satisfy either test for a given calendar year, which creditors may rely upon as a safe harbor. Further, the CFPB proposes clarifications to how rural or underserved status may be determined. The proposal notes that the amended factors also will apply to three other CFPB mortgage rules that provide rural and underserved exemptions. Finally, the proposal (i) notes that the final escrow rule inadvertently removed existing language that provided certain protections related to a consumer’s ability to repay and prepayment penalties for HPMLs, and (ii) seeks to establish a temporary provision to ensure the removed protections remain in effect until the expanded HPML protections take effect on January 10, 2014. The CFPB is accepting comments on the proposed amendments for 15 days following publication in the Federal Register. On April 18, the CFPB published a guide to help small entities comply with the escrow rule. More broadly, the CFPB believes the guide provides an “easy-to-use” summary of the rule for all creditors, as well as servicing market participants, software providers, and other creditor business partners. As with another compliance guide released last week, the CFPB notes that the guide is not a substitute for the rule and the Official Interpretations and does not consider other laws that may apply to the maintenance and administration of escrow accounts.
On April 3, the FDIC released the first in a series of videos to provide technical assistance to bank directors, officers, and employees on areas of supervisory focus and proposed regulatory changes. The initial set of videos cover (i) director responsibilities, (ii) fiduciary duties, (iii) acting in the best interest of the bank, (iv) the FDIC examination process, (v) risk management examinations, and (vi) compliance and community reinvestment act examinations. The FDIC plans to release by June 30, 2013 a second set of videos that will consist of six modules covering (i) interest rate risk, (ii) third party relationships, (iii) corporate governance, (iv) the Community Reinvestment Act, (v) information technology, and (vi) the Bank Secrecy Act. A third installment will follow later in the year and will provide technical assistance regarding (i) fair lending, (ii) appraisals and evaluations, (iii) interest rate risk, (iv) troubled debt restructurings, (v) the allowance for loan and lease losses, (vi) evaluation of municipal securities, and (vii) flood insurance. The FDIC also plans to continue the model introduced as part of prior rulemaking processes and provide overviews and instructions on more complex rulemakings.
On April 2, the CSBS released a letter it sent to encourage the CFPB to adopt an additional procedural mechanism for the CFPB to utilize when determining whether an area should be defined as “rural.” The CSBS explains that the Dodd-Frank Act confers Qualified Mortgage benefits on balloon loans if they are made in rural or underserved areas and that the CFPB has elected to utilize the USDA Economic Research Service’s Urban Influence Codes as the basis of their definition of “rural.” The letter identifies inconsistencies with the existing rural classification systems, and suggests that the CFPB adopt a petition process whereby institutions can seek a determination that a specific area be considered rural for purposes of certain Truth in Lending rural requirements.