OCC Seeks Reconsideration of Order Requiring Disclosure of Non-Public Documents related to Bank’s AML/CTF Compliance
On April 24, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York stayed an order that would have required a bank to disclose non-public supervisory information subject to the bank examination privilege. Wultz v. Bank of China, No. 11-1266 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 24, 2013). The case was brought by the family of victims of a suicide bombing attack who claim that failures in the bank’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing compliance program aided and abetted international terrorism. On April 9, 2013, the court compelled the bank and the OCC to produce various investigative files and regulatory communications over their objection that the bank examination privilege protected such production. The court relied in part on a recent and unrelated Senate investigative report’s description of the OCC oversight process. The court reasoned that the OCC’s ideal supervision process, on which it based its claim of privilege, diverges from the actual process described in the Senate report, and that the actual process undermines assumptions on which other courts have relied about the likely effects of overriding the bank examination privilege. The court added that “the OCC’s supervisory mission might in some cases be helped as much as hindered by the intervention of private litigants.” In support of its motion to reconsider, the OCC argued that the court failed to properly weigh long-standing principles and that its decision “will be construed as an erosion of the bank examination privilege that ultimately will undermine the bank supervisory process.” The OCC also asserted that it never waived the privilege and appropriately and in good faith relied upon the procedures set forth under its Touhy regulation, which is designed to provide the OCC with the opportunity to review non-public OCC information in the possession of regulated entities prior to production. The OCC asked the court to vacate its prior order and order the plaintiffs to submit a Touhy request for all materials withheld on the groups of bank examination privilege. The court agreed to stay its prior order and established a briefing schedule on the motion for reconsideration, which will be completed by May 10, 2013.