On July 30, the Federal Reserve announced the appointment of Sean Rodriguez as its Faster Payments Strategy Leader. Rodriguez serves as a Senior Vice President at the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank. In his new role, Rodriguez will lead the Federal Reserve’s Faster Payments Task Force focusing on improving the speed and efficiency of various current and emerging payment systems. More information related to the Federal Reserve’s efforts to improve the U.S. payment system is available at fedpaymentsimprovement.org.
Digital Insights & Trends: Regulating Faster Electronic Payments – More Complexity or Improved Consistency?
In January of this year, the Federal Reserve System issued a white paper titled “Strategies for Improving the U.S. Payments System.” The white paper notes that current technological developments (including the widespread availability of high-speed data networks, the ubiquity of mobile devices, and the increasing use of real-time commercial transaction processing) are outpacing the functional ability of the payments system to handle electronic payment authorization and processing. In an effort to develop strategies for addressing this growing gap, the Federal Reserve has established a Faster Payments Task Force (“FPTF”). The FPTF, which had its first meeting in June, seeks to engage a wide range of stakeholders to “identify and evaluate alternative approaches for implementing safe, ubiquitous, faster payments capabilities in the United States.”
A key question raised by such an initiative is this: what should the legal and compliance requirements for a modern electronic payments system include, especially in connection with consumer transactions? Current U.S. regulations for electronic fund transfers form a cumbersome patchwork — the rights and obligations of the parties to the transaction vary by the payment method used, and in some cases may change during the course of the transaction as the payment method is converted from one form to another (for example, the time frames within which a consumer may identify and reverse unauthorized or erroneous payments are often very different, depending on the form of payment).
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”), which is participating in the FPTF, has just issued a position paper on “Consumer Protection Principles” for faster electronic payments. The CFPB has identified the following as key elements of the legal and compliance framework: Read more…
On July 21, a leading China-based bank agreed to address deficiencies in connection with the BSA/AML risk management and compliance program of its New York branch office. The Agreement, entered into with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the New York State Department of Financial Services, requires the bank and its New York branch to (i) enhance the branch’s written BSA/AML compliance program and customer due diligence program; and (ii) develop a written program for the branch that is capable of identifying and reporting suspected violations of law and suspicious transactions to law enforcement and supervisory authorities. In addition, the bank must hire an independent third-party to review the Branch’s U.S. dollar clearing transaction activity “to determine whether suspicious activity involving high-risk customers or transactions at, by, or through the branch was properly identified and reported” to the appropriate federal banking authorities. No civil money penalty was imposed on the bank.
On July 21, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors announced the members of the Faster Payments and Secure Payments Task Force as described in the Strategies for Improving the U.S. Payment System white paper released earlier this year. The committees will advise the Federal Reserve task force chair on meeting agendas, and help prioritize various task force activities, among other payments initiatives. The members include various interest groups representing industry, tech, and government, among others. More information about the task forces and the Fed’s payments improvement initiatives can be found at fedpaymentsimprovement.org.
Federal Reserve Orders Bank Holding Company to Strengthen its Firmwide Risk Management, Cites Capital Planning and Liquidity Risk Deficiencies
On July 7, the Board of Governors announced the execution of an enforcement action against a Boston-based bank holding company over deficiencies identified by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston concerning the company’s governance, risk management, capital planning, and liquidity risk management operations. Pursuant to the Agreement, within 60 days of its execution the company must submit written plans detailing their efforts to strengthen board oversight of the company’s management and operations, bolster the risk management program, improve capital planning to match the company’s size and complexity, and strengthen liquidity risk management. No civil money penalty was imposed on the company.
Federal Banking Agencies Reveal Location For Latest EGRPRA Outreach Meeting Highlighting Rural Banking Issues
On July 6, federal banking agencies – the Board of Governors, FDIC, and OCC – announced the date and location of the latest outreach meeting under the Economic Growth and Regulatory Paperwork Reduction Act (EGRPRA). Scheduled for August 4 at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas, the upcoming meeting will examine rural banking issues and will feature remarks from agency officials. This is the fourth of six scheduled outreach meetings around the country focused on identifying newly issued, outdated, or burdensome regulatory requirements imposed on financial institutions.
On June 22, the federal banking agencies issued a joint final rule that modifies the mandatory purchase of flood insurance regulations to implement some provisions of the Biggert-Waters and Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Acts. Notable highlights include that the final rule, among other things: (i) expands escrow requirements for lenders who do not qualify for a small lender exception, (ii) clarifies the detached structure exemption, (iii) introduces new and revised sample notice forms and clauses relating to the escrow requirement and the availability of private flood insurance, and (iv) clarifies the circumstances under which lenders and servicers may charge borrowers for lender-placed flood insurance coverage. The escrow provisions and sample notice forms will become effective on January 1, 2016, and all other provisions will become effective October 1, 2015. The agencies reminded that the escrow provisions in effect on July 5, 2012, the day before Biggert-Waters was enacted, will remain in effect and be enforced through December 31, 2015.
The agencies also indicated that they plan to address Biggert-Waters’ private flood insurance provisions through a separate rulemaking.
On June 25, Federal Reserve Governor Jerome Powell delivered remarks at a payments conference hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas to discuss improvements to the U.S. payments system. Specifically, Powell advised that payment system participants must work together to improve the payment system, stating “[A]t a minimum, banks, merchants, and other institutions that process or store sensitive financial information need to keep their hardware and software current to the latest industry standards.” He noted that the Federal Reserve has established two task forces regarding the U.S. payment system, one geared towards faster payments and the other geared towards payment security. Powell cited the use of EMV chip cards and tokenization technology as examples of effective payment security measures. In addition, Powell discussed the importance of proactive efforts to implement preventative measures to prepare for potential cyber-attacks or data breaches.
On June 23, the Board of Governors announced the execution of an enforcement action against a California-based community bank over BSA/AML deficiencies. According to the Cease and Desist Order, the deficiencies were identified by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the California Department of Business Oversight, and directs the Bank to submit written plans outlining their efforts to strengthen their BSA/AML risk management program, including customer due-diligence and suspicious activity monitoring and reporting policies and procedures. In addition, the Bank must retain an independent third party to conduct a review of account and transaction activity affiliated with any high-risk customer and foreign branch accounts conducted at, by, or through the Bank from July 2014 through December 2014. No civil money penalty was imposed on the Bank.
Recently, the Federal Reserve submitted to Congress its 2015 Annual Performance Plan, which sets forth the Board’s planned projects, initiatives, and activities for the upcoming year. The Plan, which complements the Federal Reserve’s Strategic Framework 2012-15, outlines planned activities in the following six areas aimed at assisting the Board in meeting its strategic framework’s long-term objectives: (i) supervision, regulation, and monitoring risks to financial stability; (ii) data governance; (iii) facilities infrastructure; (iv) human capital; (v) management process; and (vi) cost reduction and budgetary growth. Among its initiatives, the Board aims to continue building an interdisciplinary infrastructure for supervision, regulation, and monitoring of risks to financial stability. In addition, the Board’s staff plans to develop “analytical tools” that enhance the Board’s understanding of evolving market structures and practices, including changes in risk-management practices and incentives for financial institutions to appropriately manage risk exposures. With respect to the supervision of individual institutions, the report highlights the Board’s intent to develop supervisory approaches for community and regional banks, as well as for savings and loan holding companies, that “identify and support taking action against early warning indicators of outlier risk.”
On June 9, six federal agencies – the Federal Reserve, CFPB, FDIC, NCUA, OCC, and the SEC – issued a final interagency policy statement creating guidelines for assessing the diversity policies and practices of the entities they regulate. Mandated by Section 342 of the Dodd-Frank Act, the final policy statement requires the establishment of an Office of Minority and Women Inclusion at each of the agencies and includes standards for the agencies to assess an entity’s organizational commitment to diversity, workforce and employment practices, procurement and business practices, and practices to promote transparency of diversity and inclusion within the organization. The final interagency guidance incorporates over 200 comments received from financial institutions, industry trade groups, consumer advocates, and community leaders on the proposed standards issued in October 2013. The final policy statement will be effective upon publication in the Federal Register. The six agencies also are requesting public comment, due within 60 days following publication in the Federal Register, on the information collection aspects of the interagency guidance.
On June 1, a Boston-based international financial services holding company and its banking subsidiary agreed to address deficiencies in how they manage compliance risks with respect to their BSA/AML compliance program. The Agreement, entered into with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and the Massachusetts Division of Banks, requires both entities to submit a written plan outlining their efforts to improve their compliance with OFAC and internal controls, customer due-diligence procedures, and suspicious activity monitoring and reporting, among other things. In addition, the banking subsidiary must hire an independent third-party to review account and transaction activity during a specified period to ensure suspicious activity was properly identified and reported.
In a separate enforcement action, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago entered into an agreement on May 26 with an Illinois-based financial services company, requiring the parent company and its banking subsidiary to, among other things, submit written plans to (i) strengthen its BSA/AML compliance risk management program; and (ii) “ensure the identification and timely, accurate, and complete reporting” of suspicious transactions to the appropriate law enforcement and supervisory [banking] authorities.” No civil money penalties were imposed in either enforcement action.
DOJ Announces Plea Agreements with Five Major Banks for Manipulating Foreign Currency Exchange Markets
On May 20, the DOJ announced plea agreements with five major banks relating to manipulations of foreign currency exchange markets. Four of the banks pled guilty to felony charges of “conspiring to manipulate the price of U.S. dollars and euros exchanged in the foreign currency exchange (FX) spot market.” These four banks agreed to pay criminal fines totaling more than $2.5 billion and to a three-year period of “corporate probation,” which will be “overseen by the court and require regular reporting to authorities as well as cessation of all criminal activities.” A fifth bank pled guilty to manipulating benchmark interest rates, including LIBOR, and to violating a prior non-prosecution agreement arising out of the DOJ’s LIBOR investigation. That bank agreed to pay a $203 million criminal penalty. The DOJ emphasized that these were “parent-level guilty pleas” to felony charges and that it would continue to investigate potentially culpable individuals. The five banks also agreed to various additional fines and settlements with other regulators, including the Federal Reserve, the CFTC, NYDFS, and the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority. Combined with previous payments arising out of the FX investigations, the five banks have paid nearly $9 billion in fines and penalties.
On May 26, The CFPB and the Federal Reserve will host a 60-minute webinar to answer questions with respect to the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure rule under the TILA and RESPA, also known as TRID. “This fifth and final in the planned series of webinars will address specific questions related to rule interpretation and implementation challenges that have been raised to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by creditors, mortgage brokers, settlement agents, software developers, and other stakeholders,” according to the Federal Reserve. For those interested in attending, registration is required and can be accessed here.
On April 6, the Federal Reserve, OCC, and FDIC (Agencies) revealed that their ongoing regulatory review under the Economic Growth and Regulatory Paperwork Reduction Act of 1996 (EGRPRA) will now be expanded to include recently issued regulations. The EGRPRA requires the Agencies and the FFIEC to review and identify outdated, burdensome, or unnecessary regulations at least every 10 years. The regulators have held two public outreach meetings with additional outreach sessions currently scheduled for May 4 in Boston, August 4 in Kansas City, October 19 in Chicago, and concluding on December 2 in Washington, D.C.