On April 30, the OCC and the FDIC announced parallel enforcement actions against a national bank and an affiliated state bank to resolve allegations that the institutions violated Section 5 of the FTC Act in their marketing and implementation of overdraft protection programs, checking rewards programs, and stop-payment processes for preauthorized recurring electronic fund transfers. The OCC claims that (i) bank employees failed to disclose technical limitations of the standard overdraft protection practices opt-out, (ii) the bank’s overdraft opt-in notice described fees that the bank did not actually charge, (iii) the bank failed to disclose that it would not transfer funds from a savings account to cover overdrafts in linked checking accounts if the savings account did not have funds to cover the entire overdrawn balance on a given day, even if the available funds would have covered one or more overdrawn items, (iv) the bank failed to disclose technical limitations of its preauthorized recurring electronic funds transfers that prevented it from stopping certain transfers upon customer request, and (v) the bank failed to disclose posting date requirements for its checking reward program. The OCC orders require the bank to pay approximately $2.5 million in restitution and a $5 million civil money penalty. In addition, the bank must (i) appoint an independent compliance committee, (ii) update its compliance risk management systems with appropriate policies and procedures, and (iii) adjust its written compliance risk management policy. The FDIC order requires the state bank to refund customers roughly $1.4 million and pay a $5 million civil penalty.
On May 8, an economic and financial analysis and consulting firm issued a report that indicates the FDIC is on pace to file more suits against bank directors and officers in 2013 than it has in any year since the start of the financial crisis. The report states that as of April 22, 2013, the FDIC has seized eight institutions and filed at least 12 lawsuits against officers and directors, and that trends suggest that substantially more FDIC cases may be filed in the coming months. Other key findings from the report include: (i) of the 476 financial institutions that have failed since 2007, 55, or 12%, have been the subject of FDIC D&O lawsuits, (ii) CEOs continue to be the most commonly named defendants, though outside directors have been named in 75 percent of all filed complaints, (iii) the 12 suits filed in 2013 included allegations of gross negligence and breach of fiduciary duty, and (iv) of the 44 settlement agreements involving directors and officers (regardless of whether a lawsuit was filed), as many as 17 agreements, or 39 percent, required out-of-pocket payments by the directors and officers.
On April 25, the Federal Reserve Board issued a policy statement on deposit advance products. The statement came on the same day that the OCC and the FDIC proposed more formal guidance for such products. The Board statement identifies potential “significant risks” associated with deposit advance products, including UDAP risk and other consumer compliance risk. The statement directs examiners to thoroughly review any deposit advance products offered by supervised institutions for compliance with Section 5 of the FTC Act and reminds banks of their responsibility for vendors hired to offer deposit advance products.
On April 24, the CFPB published a white paper on payday loan and deposit advance products that claims to show those products lead to a “cycle of high-cost borrowing.” On April 25, the FDIC and the OCC proposed guidance relating to deposit advance products based on similar concerns. The CFPB paper reflects the results of what the CFPB characterizes as a year-long, in-depth review of short-term, small-dollar loans, which began with a January 2012 field hearing. Although it acknowledges that demand exists for small dollar credit products, that such products can be helpful for consumers, and that alternatives may not be available, the CFPB concludes that such products are only appropriate in limited circumstances and faults lenders for not determining whether the products are suitable for each customer. The CFPB paper does not propose any rule or guidance, but is instead intended to present a clear statement of CFPB concerns. The paper notes that a related CFPB study of online payday loans is ongoing. The FDIC and OCC proposed guidance outlines the agencies’ safety and soundness, compliance, and consumer protection concerns about deposit advance products, and sets forth numerous expectations, including with regard to consumer eligibility, capital adequacy, fees, compliance, management oversight, and third-party relationships. For example, under the guidance the agencies would expect banks to offer a deposit advance product only to customers who (i) have at least a six month relationship with the bank, (ii) do not have any delinquent or adversely classified credits, and (iii) meet specific financial capacity standards. The guidance also would require, among other things, that (i) each deposit advance loan be repaid in full before the extension of a subsequent loan, (ii) banks refrain from offering more than one loan per monthly statement cycle and provide a cooling-off period of at least one monthly statement cycle after the repayment of a loan before another advance is extended, and (iii) banks reevaluate customer eligibility every six months.
On April 15, the Federal Reserve Board and the FDIC issued additional guidance for the first group of institutions required to submit resolution plans pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act. That group includes 11 institutions that submitted initial resolution plans last year. Based on their review of those initial plans, the regulators offer additional instruction as to what information should be included in the 2013 submissions, including more detailed information about certain potential obstacles to resolvability under the Bankruptcy Code. Given the additional request, the regulators also extended the due date for the plans from July 1, 2013 to October 1, 2013.
On April 9, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California dismissed claims brought by the FDIC as receiver for a failed bank against a financial institution related to 10 MBS certificates sold to the bank, holding that the FDIC’s claims were time-barred. Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp. v. Countrywide Secs. Corp., No. 12-6911, slip op. (C.D. Cal. Apr. 9, 2013). The court found that “a reasonably diligent plaintiff had enough information about false statements in the Offering Documents of [the firm’s] securities to file a well-pled complaint before” the statute of limitations expired on August 14, 2008. The court noted that deviations from stated underwriting guidelines and inflated appraisals had come to light prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations through “multiple lawsuits” and “numerous media sources.” The court found that it was irrelevant that the FDIC was named receiver for the bank because “[t]he FDIC [did] not have the power to revive expired claims.” Similarly, on April 8, the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas granted, in part, a motion to dismiss federal and state claims brought by the NCUA on behalf of three failed credit unions against a financial institution related to certain MBS certificates sold to the credit unions, holding that certain NCUA claims were time-barred. Nat’l Credit Union Admin. Bd. v. Credit Suisse Secs. (USA) LLC, No. 12 Civ. 2648, 2013 WL 1411769 (D. Kan. Apr. 8, 2013). The court found that the applicable federal and state law statutes of limitations required claims to be filed within one or two years of discovery of the alleged misstatement or omission, and within three or five years of sale or violation, respectively. The judge dismissed the federal and state claims for 12 of the MBS certificates as untimely, but preserved federal claims as to eight certificates, determining that the statutes of limitations were tolled on those claims. In addition, the court found that (i) venue was proper because defendant engaged in activity that would constitute the transaction of business in the district for purposes of the applicable venue statute and (ii) plaintiff set forth plausible claims for relief.
On April 9, the FDIC announced a series of nationwide banker teleconferences focused on the CFPB’s final mortgage rules. The first teleconference call is scheduled for May 2, 2013 and will focus on the ability-to-repay/qualified mortgage rule, the new escrow requirements, and certain aspects of the loan originator compensation rule. The second call is scheduled for May 15, 2013 and will address the CFPB’s final rule on mortgage servicing. The final call is scheduled for June 6, 2013 and will focus on the loan originator compensation rule and HOEPA amendments. The sessions are free, but individuals are required to register.
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 March 29, the Federal Reserve Board, the FDIC, the OCC, the NCUA, and the Farm Credit Administration issued an interagency statement to clarify the effective dates for changes to the Flood Disaster Protection Act enacted last year in the Biggert-Water Flood Insurance Reform Act (the Act). The statement informs financial institutions that the force-placed aspects of the Act became effective upon enactment, which was July, 6, 2012, while provisions related to private flood insurance and escrow of flood insurance payments do not take effect until the agencies issue regulations. The statement reiterates the OCC’s prior statement that the new flood insurance penalty provisions in the Act took effect immediately and apply to violations that occurred on or after July 6, 2012.
On March 21, the Federal Reserve Board, the OCC, and the FDIC issued final interagency guidance to ensure institutions provide leverage lending in a safe and sound manner by: (i) identifying the institution’s risk appetite for leveraged finance, establishing appropriate credit limits, and ensuring prudent oversight and approval processes; (ii) establishing underwriting standards that clearly define expectations for cash flow capacity, amortization, covenant protection, collateral controls, and the underlying business premise for each transaction, and consider whether the borrower’s capital structure is sustainable; (iii) concentrating valuation standards on the importance of sound methods in the determination and periodic revalidation of enterprise value; (iv) accurately measuring exposure on a timely basis, establish policies and procedures that address failed transactions and general market disruptions, and ensure periodic stress tests of exposures to loans not yet distributed to buyers; (v) developing information systems that accurately capture key obligor characteristics and aggregate them across business lines and legal entities on a timely basis, with periodic reporting to the institution’s board of directors; (vi) considering in risk rating standards the use of realistic repayment assumptions to determine a borrower’s ability to de-lever to a sustainable level within a reasonable period of time; (vii) establishing underwriting and monitoring standards similar to loans underwritten internally; and (viii) performing stress testing on leveraged loans held in portfolio as well as those planned for distribution. The new guidance took effect on March 22, 2013, and institutions have until May 21, 2013 to comply.
On March 18, the Federal Reserve Board, the FDIC, and the OCC proposed revisions to the “Interagency Questions and Answers Regarding Community Reinvestment” (Q&As). Focused primarily on community development, the revised Q&As aim to (i) clarify how the agencies consider community development activities outside an institution’s assessment area, both in the broader statewide or regional area and in nationwide funds, (ii) clarify how to determine whether recipients of community services are low- or moderate-income; (iii) explain the consideration of certain community development services, (iv) address the treatment of qualified investments to organizations that use only a portion of the investment to support a community development purpose, and (v) clarify that community development lending should be evaluated in such a way that it may have a positive, neutral, or negative impact on the large institution lending test rating. In remarks to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition on March, 20, 2013, Comptroller Thomas Curry described the proposed changes and stressed that they are the first steps the agencies will take to address issues raised during a 2010 outreach effort to reappraise the CRA and identify gaps between CRA implementation and changes in the structure of the banking industry, and how customers access and use credit and financial products. Mr. Curry also promised training and revised examination procedures to ensure more consistent application of CRA rules. The agencies will accept comments on the revisions for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.
On February 19, the DOJ announced a settlement with a $338 million Texas community bank to resolve allegations that the bank engaged in a pattern or practice of pricing discrimination on the basis of national origin. Specifically, the DOJ alleged, based on its own investigation and an examination conducted by the FDIC, the bank violated ECOA by charging Hispanic borrowers higher interest rates on unsecured consumer loans compared to the rates charged to similarly situated white borrowers. The consent order requires the bank to establish a $700,000 fund to compensate borrowers who may have suffered harm as a result of the alleged ECOA violations. It also requires that the bank (i) establish uniform pricing policies, (ii) create a compliance monitoring program, (iii) provide borrower notices of non-discrimination, and (iv) conduct employee training. The new requirements apply not only to unsecured consumer loans, but also to all residential single-family real estate construction financing, automobile financing, home improvement loans, and mortgage loans.
On February 19, House Financial Services Committee members Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) sent a letter to the Federal Reserve Board, the OCC, and the FDIC regarding the lawmakers’ concerns about the implementation of Basel III. Citing potential compliance costs and the potential derivative impact on consumers, Representatives Capito and Maloney ask that the agencies carefully tailor the Basel III capital requirements to ensure they are appropriate for community banks. The House and Senate have in recent months placed significant focus on the Basel III rulemakings, with both houses recently holding hearings on the issue and lawmakers previously sending letters to the regulators.
On February 12, the FDIC approved a proposed rule that would amend its deposit insurance regulations to clarify that deposits in foreign branches of U.S. banks are not FDIC-insured. The U.K. Financial Services Authority (FSA) has proposed a rule to prohibit banks from non-European Economic Area countries from operating deposit-taking branches in the U.K. unless U.K. depositors in such branches would be on an equal footing in the national depositor preference regime with home-country (uninsured) depositors if a bank were to fail and require a resolution. The FDIC believes that U.S. banks seeking to comply with the FSA proposal likely will change their U.K. deposit agreements so that the deposits are payable both in the U.K. and in the U.S. The proposed FDIC rule is intended to protect the Deposit Insurance Fund against the potential resulting liability that the FDIC could face as a deposit insurer for customers of foreign branches of U.S.-based insured depository institutions. While deposits at foreign branches of U.S. banks would not be insured, they could be treated as deposits for purposes of national depositor preference laws. The proposed rule would not affect deposits in overseas military banking facilities governed by regulations of the Department of Defense. The FDIC is seeking comment on all aspects of the proposal within 60 days of its publication in the Federal Register.
SEC Names Office of Market Intelligence Chief. On January 22, the SEC announced that Vincente Martinez will serve as the head of the Office of Market Intelligence, a unit of the Enforcement Division that collects and evaluates tips, complaints and referrals. Mr. Martinez rejoins the SEC from the CFTC where he served as the first director of that agency’s whistleblower office. He previously spent eight years in the SEC’s Enforcement Division, most recently helping to develop Enforcement Division and SEC-wide policies and procedures for handling tips, complaints, and referrals. Lori Walsh, who is currently serving as the Acting Chief of the Office of Market Intelligence, will serve as Deputy Chief of the office.
FHFA Announces Deputy Director for Housing Mission and Goals. On January 15, the FHFA announced that beginning in March Sandra Thompson will serve as Deputy Director of the Division of Housing Mission and Goals with responsibility for overseeing the FHFA’s housing and regulatory policy, financial analysis, and policy research and analysis of housing finance and financial markets. Ms. Thompson will leave her current position as Director of the Division of Risk Management Supervision at the FDIC where she led the agency’s examination and enforcement program for risk management and consumer protection. The FHFA also promoted Nina Nichols to serve as Deputy Director of the Division of Supervision Policy and Support.
OCC Announces Chief Counsel. Last week, the OCC announced Amy Friend as the agency’s Chief Counsel beginning in February, replacing Julie Williams who retired last fall. Ms. Friend is a former assistant chief counsel at the OCC and served as chief counsel to the Senate Banking Committee during the development of the Dodd-Frank Act.