GAO Report Recommends Additional Actions to Help Achieve Dodd-Frank Stress Test Goals

On November 15, the GAO released its report entitled Federal Reserve: Additional Actions Could Help Ensure the Achievement of Stress Test Goals. The report had been requested in September 2014 by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling in order to determine the costs, benefits, effectiveness and transparency of the Fed’s stress tests. Highlights of the Report can be found here.

The GAO was asked to review and assess the effectiveness of each of the Fed’s two stress test programs for certain banking institutions. Accordingly, the GAO analyzed Fed rules, guidance, and internal policies and procedures and assessed practices against federal internal control standards and other criteria. The GAO also interviewed Federal Reserve staff and officials at 19 banking institutions. The report sets forth 15 recommendations that the GAO believes will help improve the effectiveness of the Fed’s stress test programs. The recommendations include, among other things, improving disclosures and communications to firms, expanding model risk management, and reconsidering potential consequences of the Fed’s scenario design choices. The GAO has reported that the Fed “generally agreed with the recommendations and highlighted select ongoing and future efforts.”

In a November 15 press release, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling used the GAO report to critique the Fed’s lack of transparency with regard to certain activities under the Dodd-Frank Act. Among other things, Rep. Hensarling stated, “[t]he GAO report confirms the secrecy surrounding the stress tests makes it almost impossible to measure the effectiveness of the Fed’s regulatory oversight or the integrity of the tests’ findings. When it comes to the Fed’s stress tests, not only are they not transparent, they are often duplicative and impose unnecessary costs and burdens on financial institutions that are ultimately passed on to consumers.” Rep Hensarling cautioned further that “[t]he changes recently proposed by the Federal Reserve to its stress testing process are inadequate,” and the GAO report “demonstrates the absolute need for the new President to designate a Vice-Chairman for Supervision at the Federal Reserve who will have the power to ‘oversee the supervision and regulation’ of financial firms supervised by the Federal Reserve.”

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OCC Seeks Comments on Volcker Rule Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Disclosure Requirements

On November 18, OCC published a notice seeking comments on various reporting, recordkeeping, and disclosure requirements associated with its regulations that implemented the Volcker Rule. Among other things, the OCC is seeking comments on: (i) whether the information sought is necessary for the OCC to perform its supervisory functions; (ii) the accuracy of the OCC’s estimate of the information collection burden; (iii) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected while also minimizing the collection burdens on respondents; and (iv) estimates of capital or start-up costs and costs of operation, maintenance, and purchase of services to provide the information. Comments must be submitted on or before January 17, 2017.

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Election Results: Preliminary Thoughts and Reactions

As a result of last Tuesday’s election, Republicans will control the White House and both houses of Congress in 2017. It is likely there ultimately will be some significant changes affecting financial services regulation and enforcement, but they will take time to implement. The President-elect has articulated sympathy for less regulation and opposition to the Dodd-Frank Act but also an unconventional economic populism. The Congressional Republicans have already prepared, and in some cases passed, more specific changes to limit and cabin the CFPB. We anticipate efforts focused on changing the CFPB Director and CFPB structure, reduced regulation that may encourage product innovation (particularly in the FinTech space), and potentially less emphasis on certain Department of Justice (“DOJ”) enforcement initiatives such as fair lending and the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities (“RMBS”) task force. Nonetheless, we expect continued enforcement and supervisory activity, including by states and by prudential regulators that are less directly tied to shifting political winds.

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CFPB Takes Action Against B&B Pawnbrokers For Misleadingly Low Annual Percentage Rate

On November 3, the CFPB filed a lawsuit in federal district court against a Virginia pawnbroker for deceiving consumers about the actual annual cost of its loans. In its Complaint, the CFPB alleges both TILA violations and unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices under Dodd-Frank and the CPA. The complaint seeks monetary relief, injunctive relief, and penalties. The CFPB coordinated its investigation with the Virginia Attorney General’s office – which filed its own lawsuit against the same pawnbrokers back in July 2015 for violations of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.

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CFPB Releases Financial Literacy Annual Report for 2016

On October 31, the CFPB released its Financial Literacy Annual Report for 2016. The report describes what the Bureau is doing to “help consumers navigate the financial marketplace and build financial well-being” per its mandate under Dodd-Frank to improve the “financial literacy” of consumers in America. The 2016 edition of the report is broken down into three sections: (i) why there is a need for financial literacy amongst consumers; (ii) the Bureau’s approach to increasing financial literacy; and (iii) research initiatives designed to “understand consumers and the financial market place,” “effective financial education practices,” and “how best to prepare youth for financial capability in adulthood.”

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