On May 16, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors Emerging Payments Task Force held a public hearing to examine the changing payments landscape and opportunities and risks presented by current and emerging technologies. The Legacy Payment Systems panel focused on continued efforts to improve efficiency and speed while simultaneously “preserving consumer confidence and system stability.” The Retail Payments Innovations panelists described innovative electronic and mobile payment systems and suggested that further innovation would be best supported by existing regulatory framework, which offers sufficient consumer protections. Finally, the Virtual Currencies panel urged state and federal regulators to “provide clear and consistent regulatory expectations and guidance without restricting innovation.” The event was the most recent of a number held by federal and state policymakers to address the proliferation of emerging financial technologies used to move money and transfer funds, which range from enhancements of traditional ACH or credit and debit methods of payment to virtual currencies that disrupt the traditional model. The CSBS is expected to use public hearings like this one to develop a proposed regulatory framework for state agencies.
On July 1, the OCC, the Federal Reserve Board, the FDIC, the NCUA, and the Conference of State Bank Supervisors issued interagency guidance on home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) nearing their end-of-draw periods. The guidance states that as HELOCs transition from their draw periods to full repayment, some borrowers may have difficulty meeting higher payments resulting from principal amortization or interest rate reset, or renewing existing loans due to changes in their financial circumstances or declines in property values. As such, the guidance describes the following “core operating principles” that the regulators believe should govern oversight of HELOCs nearing their end-of-draw periods: (i) prudent underwriting for renewals, extensions, and rewrites; (ii) compliance with existing guidance, including but not limited to the Credit Risk Management Guidance for Home Equity Lending and the Interagency Guidelines for Real Estate Lending Policies; (iii) use of well-structured and sustainable modification terms; (iv) appropriate accounting, reporting, and disclosure of troubled debt restructurings; and (v) appropriate segmentation and analysis of end-of-draw exposure in allowance for loan and lease losses estimation processes. The guidance also outlines numerous risk management expectations, and states that institutions with a significant volume of HELOCs, portfolio acquisitions, or exposures with higher-risk characteristics should have comprehensive systems and procedures to monitor and assess their portfolios, while less-sophisticated processes may be sufficient for community banks and credit unions with small portfolios, few acquisitions, or exposures with lower-risk characteristics.
On May 1, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) published its 2013 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 2014. Those priorities include, among others, continuing to coordinate with federal regulators on cybersecurity and with the CFPB on complaint sharing. The report also includes more detailed reports on past and future activities by various CSBS divisions and boards, including a report from the Policy and Supervision Division that reviews the CSBS’s legislative and regulatory policy positions, and its bank supervision and consumer protection and non-bank supervision activities.
On April 23, the CSBS’s Emerging Payment Task Force, together with the North American Securities Administrators Association, released “Model State Consumer and Investor Guidance on Virtual Currency.” The model guidance provides basic background information on virtual currency, and tips for consumers considering buying, selling, transacting with, or investing in a virtual currency.
On February 20, the CSBS announced the formation of an Emerging Payments Task Force to study changes in payment systems—including virtual currencies and other innovations—to determine the potential impact on consumer protection, state law, and banks and nonbank entities chartered or licensed by the states. The Task Force is comprised of nine state regulators, including New York State Department of Financial Services Superintendent Lawsky who has recently indicated New York will seek to become the first state to directly address virtual currency through new regulations. The Task Force will be chaired by David Cotney, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Division of Banks, who testified on these issues on behalf of the CSBS last fall before the Senate Banking Committee. The CSBS stated that the Task Force will “take a comprehensive approach to studying the changing payment systems” by engaging with a broad range of federal, state, and industry stakeholders to understand how new entrants and technologies affect the stability of payment systems and the broader financial marketplace and “to develop ideas for connecting the emerging payments landscape to the financial regulatory fabric.”
On January 7, the CSBS announced that, as of January 1, four additional state or U.S. territorial agencies began using the National SAFE MLO test. With the addition of these four agencies—the Nevada Department of Business & Industry, the New Mexico Financial Institutions Division, the Puerto Rico Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions, and the U.S. Virgin Islands Division of Banking & Insurance—a total of 39 agencies are now using the test, which was announced last January and launched in April 2013. The test includes a uniform state component to replace the state-specific component in adopting states.
This week, two Senate Committees—Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs—held hearings to hear from regulators and other stakeholders about how virtual currencies fit within the existing regulatory framework, and to assess whether there is a need to alter that framework in response to potential risks presented by emerging virtual currency technologies. The hearings followed an inquiry initiated by Senate Homeland Security leaders over the summer. Senators who participated in the hearings did not indicate any desire to move quickly to establish new federal regulations to address potential risks presented by innovation in virtual currencies. Rather, the lawmakers generally expressed a desire not to inhibit continued innovation, while supporting market participants who want to play by the rules and protecting the market from those who do not. In both hearings, FinCEN Director Jennifer Shasky Calvery described her agency’s ability to address the BSA/AML and terrorism financing risks presented by virtual currencies by employing FinCEN’s existing statutory authority and regulatory tools. Similarly, during the Senate Banking hearing, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors expressed confidence in the ability of state regulators to address consumer protection and other risks posed by virtual currencies through the existing state regulatory framework and processes. Still, committee members raised broader questions about the how to define or categorize virtual currencies (e.g. as a currency versus as a security) and the impact of such a classification on a range of other issues including monetary policy and tax administration. The breadth of the issues, which may need to be addressed by a range of government actors, formed the basis of Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Tom Carper’s (D-DE) call for a “whole government” approach to virtual currency.
On October 11, the State Regulatory Registry (SRR) proposed changes to (i) the uniform NMLS company, branch, and individual licensing forms developed by state regulators and used by all states through NMLS and (ii) the NMLS Mortgage Call Report (MCR). The proposal incorporates public comments received following an initial April 2013 proposal. The proposed licensing form changes would, among other things, (i) allow a company to designate more than one branch manager within an industry, (ii) revise business activity on company and branch forms, and (iii) collect other trade names on company and branch forms by agency and not by state. Changes to the NMLS licensing forms and certain changes to the format of the MCR are expected to be implemented in March 2014. The proposal notes that given expected changes to HMDA reporting requirements, the SRR will propose substantive changes to the MCR in 2014 with an expected implementation timeframe in 2015. Comments on the proposed changes are due by November 11, 2013.
On October 1, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors announced that five additional state agencies have implemented the new national SAFE MLO test, bringing the total number of participating state agencies to 35. The new test, which was announced in January and launched in April, includes a uniform state component to replace the state-specific component in adopting states.
On July 1, the CSBS announced that ten additional state agencies will use the new National SAFE MLO test. Twenty state agencies adopted the test when it initially was introduced in April 2013. The uniform test combines both the national and state testing requirements of the SAFE Act, replaces the separate, state-specific tests for the states that adopt it, and streamlines the license application process for mortgage loan originators (MLOs) seeking licenses in multiple states. The CSBS reports that an additional five state agencies are scheduled to adopt the test by the start of 2014.
On May 21, the CFPB and the CSBS released an agreement to coordinate supervision of entities subject to concurrent jurisdiction of the CFPB and one or more state regulators. The Supervisory Coordination Framework is a nonbinding guide that builds off of the parties’ 2011 Memorandum of Understanding, which has since been signed by 59 state regulators. The Framework establishes processes for information sharing, consulting on corrective actions, and coordinating exam schedules and supervisory plans. The Framework also includes a general process for resolving disputes between the CFPB and state regulators, and directs the parties to develop additional processes and procedures to ensure standardization and consistency in implementing the Framework.
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.
Earlier this month, the CSBS sought comment on potential revisions to (i) the uniform NMLS company, branch, and individual licensing forms and (ii) the quarterly NMLS Mortgage Call Report. The forms create a national standard of information collection for entities licensed through NMLS, while the quarterly call reports provide comprehensive and uniform information concerning the financial condition of licensed mortgage companies, their mortgage loan activities, and the production information of their mortgage loan originators. The state regulators are seeking comment on, among other things, potential improvements to form changes made in 2012. With respect to the call reports, the state regulators are seeking input on (i) the definition of “application” in the call report, (ii) criteria to be used when determining which companies file the different versions of the report, (iii) whether any policies, requirements, data fields, or definitions should be amended, and (iv) which aggregate call report data should be publicly reported. Comments are due by June 11, 2013.
On April 10, the CSBS sent a letter to Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) – the chief sponsors in their respective chambers of Congress of legislation related to online payday lending – to express support for the bills. The letter focuses on the provisions of the SAFE Lending Act, S. 172 and H.R. 990, that seek to (i) ensure consistent application of state usury laws and (ii) enhance state authority over online lenders. Noting that state regulators have found “countless instances of unlicensed and unregulated online payday lending” in violation of state law, the CSBS contends that the bills should be considered a “framework for the proper state-federal regulatory balance” with respect to online, short-term, small-dollar loans.
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.