Fed Governor: “Tailor Regulations to the Institution”

On December 2, Fed Governor Brainard delivered remarks at the Economic Growth and Regulatory Paperwork Reduction Act (EGRPRA) Outreach Meeting in California. Governor Brainard noted the significance of safety and soundness in the banking system, but noted that some Dodd-Frank regulations should target only larger institutions so that undue burdens are not placed on community banks: “Applying a one-size-fits-all approach to regulations may produce a small benefit at a disproportionately large compliance cost to smaller institutions.” The EGRPRA review, conducted every 10 years, provides an opportunity for federal financial regulators to consider whether current regulations are outdated, unnecessary, or unduly burdensome.

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New York Federal Reserve Bank Establishes Integrated Policy Analysis Group

On December 3, the New York Fed announced the formation of its Integrated Policy Analysis Group (IPA). Designed to develop the New York Fed’s view of the economic and financial environment globally, the IPA will (i) integrate information from within and outside the Bank to assess the developing economic and financial environment; (ii) assess risks with the potential to impact the Fed’s objectives and “consider policy options to mitigate those risks;” and (iii) manage international relationships. Alberto G. Musalem was appointed as the head of IPA, and the new group is scheduled to begin its work in January 2015.

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Banking Agencies Announce First Outreach Meeting

On November 5, the OCC, FDIC, and the Fed announced that they will hold an outreach meeting on December 2 to review regulations under the Economic Growth and Regulatory Paperwork Reduction Acts of 1996 (EGRPRA). This is the first of a series of outreach meetings and will be held at the LA branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Under the EGRPRA, the FFIEC and the previously mentioned agencies must review their regulations at least every 10 years to identify any unnecessary or outdated regulations. The December 2 meeting will feature panel presentations by industry participants and consumer and community groups.

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Fed Issues Final Rule Limiting Bank Mergers of Large Financial Firms

On November 5, the Board finalized Reg. XX thereby implementing Section 622 of the Dodd-Frank. The final rule, which was proposed in May, prohibits a financial company from combining with another company if the resulting company’s liabilities exceed 10 percent of the aggregate consolidated liabilities of all financial companies. The final rule also adds an exemption to clarify that a financial company may continue to engage in securitization activities if it has reached the limit and establishes reporting requirements for financial companies that do not otherwise report consolidated information to the Board or other Federal banking agency. Financial companies subject to the limit include insured depository institutions, bank holding companies, savings and loan holding companies, foreign banking organizations, companies that control insured depository institutions, and nonbank financial companies designated by the Financial Stability Oversight Council for Board supervision. The final rule will be effective on January 1, 2015.

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Agencies Propose Flood Insurance Rule

On October 30, five federal agencies – the FCA, FDIC, NCUA, OCC and the Fed – issued a proposed rule regarding flood insurance. The proposed rule will amend regulations relating to loans secured by property located in special flood hazard areas. Specifically, the proposed rule would (i) establish requirements in connection with the escrow of flood insurance payments; (ii) provide certain borrowers with the option to escrow flood insurance premiums and fees; and (iii) eliminate the HFIAA requirement “to purchase flood insurance for a structure that is part of a residential property located in a special flood hazard area if that structure is detached from the primary residential structure and does not also serve as a residence.” Comments on the proposed rule are due by December 29, 2014.

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Fed Ends QE3

On October 29, the FOMC released its policy statement announcing an end to the Fed’s mortgage and treasury bond purchase program used to boost the economy. Quantitative Easing 3 (QE3) was the third in a series of subsequent monetary policy tools used to spur investing and spending in part by keeping long-term interest rates low. The end of QE3 marks a significant milestone in the post-crisis era. Regarding the end of QE3, the FOMC noted that it had seen “a substantial improvement in the outlook for the labor market since the inception of its current asset purchase program. Moreover, the Committee continues to see sufficient underlying strength in the broader economy to support ongoing progress toward maximum employment in a context of price stability. Accordingly, the Committee decided to conclude its asset purchase program this month.”

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Fed Issues Final Rule Affecting Financial Market Utilities, Updates Policy on Payment System Risk

On October 28, the Federal Reserve announced its final rule to amend Regulation HH, standards for financial market utilities (FMUs) that have been designated as systemically important by the FSOC. The new rule will implement a common set of risk-management standards for all designated FMUs and revise certain definitions. Further, the Fed also announced final revisions to part 1 of its Federal Reserve Policy on Payment System Risk. The final rule and revisions to the policy are based on the Principles for Financial Market Infrastructureswhich were developed jointly by the Committee on Payment and Settlement Systems and the International Organization of Securities CommissionsSpecifically, the amendments and revisions will establish (i) separate standards to address credit risk and liquidity risk; (ii) new plans for recovery and orderly wind-down; (iii) new standards on general business risk and on tiered participation arrangements; and (iv) increased requirements on transparency and disclosure. The final rule will be effective on December 31, 2014. FMUs have until December 31, 2015 to comply with specific additional requirements set forth in the rule.

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Federal Reserve Board Appoints Adviser To The Board for Monetary Policy

On October 8, the Federal Reserve Board announced the appointment of William English as an advisor to the Board for Monetary Policy in the Office of Board Members. Since July 2010, Mr. English has served as the director of the Board’s Division of Monetary Affairs and as secretary to the Federal Open Market Committee. Mr. English is expected to remain as secretary to the FOMC so that he can continue to contribute to the monetary policy process.

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Federal Reserve Announces Quantitative Impact Study for Insurance Holding Companies

On September 30, the Federal Reserve Board announced that it will begin a quantitative impact study (QIS) in order to better understand the potential effects of its revised regulatory capital framework. The study will focus on the effects on savings and loan holding companies, as well as nonbank financial companies that are supervised by the Federal Reserve and significantly engaged in insurance underwriting activity. In July 2013, the Federal Reserve finalized its revised regulatory capital framework in order to implement the Basel III capital rules for bank holding companies, certain savings and loan holding companies, and state member banks. In order to give the Federal Reserve time to adapt the capital rules for savings and loan holding companies substantially engaged in insurance underwriting activity, such entities were excluded from the 2013 framework. The QIS is being conducted in order to provide the Federal Reserve with a better understanding of how to design a capital framework for the insurance holding companies that is consistent with safety and sounds principles and the requirements of section 171 of Dodd-Frank (the Collins Amendment). The results of the QIS will allow the Federal Reserve to explore and address areas of concern raised by commenters during the proposal stage of the revised regulatory capital framework rulemaking. The Federal Reserve has contacted the insurance holding companies subject to its supervision and has requested their participation in the QIS. The requested information should be submitted by December 31, 2014.

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Federal Reserve, CFPB Announce Increased Consumer Credit, Lease Transaction Thresholds

On September 9, the Federal Reserve Board and the CFPB announced an increase in the dollar thresholds in Regulation Z and Regulation M for exempt consumer credit and lease transactions. Transactions at or below the thresholds are subject to the protections of the regulations. Based on the annual percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers as of June 1, 2014, TILA and Consumer Leasing Act generally will apply to consumer credit transactions and consumer leases of $54,600 or less beginning January 1, 2015—an increase of $1,100 from 2014. Private education loans and loans secured by real property, used or expected to be used as a principal dwelling, remain subject to TILA regardless of the amount of the loan.

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Prudential Regulators Seek Comments On Proposed CRA Questions And Answers

On September 8, the OCC, the FDIC, and the Federal Reserve Board released proposed revisions to the Interagency Questions and Answers Regarding Community Reinvestment. Specifically, the agencies propose to revise three questions and answers that address alternative systems for delivering retail banking service and provide additional examples of innovative or flexible lending practices. In addition, the proposal would revise three questions and answers addressing community development-related issues and add four new questions and answers – two of which address community development services, and two of which provide general guidance on responsiveness and innovativeness. Comments on the proposal are due by November 10, 2014.

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Prudential Regulators Finalize Liquidity Coverage Ratio Rule

On September 3, the OCC, the FDIC, and the Federal Reserve Board released a final rule establishing a minimum liquidity requirement for large and internationally active banking organizations. The rule will require banking organizations with $250 billion or more in total consolidated assets or $10 billion or more in on-balance sheet foreign exposure, and such banking organizations’ subsidiary depository institutions that have assets of $10 billion or more, to hold high quality, liquid assets (HQLA) that can be converted easily into cash in an amount equal to or greater than its projected cash outflows minus its projected cash inflows during a 30-day stress period. The ratio of the institution’s HQLA to its projected net cash outflow is its “liquidity coverage ratio,” or LCR. The Federal Reserve Board also is adopting a modified LCR for bank holding companies and savings and loan holding companies that do not meet these thresholds, but that have $50 billion or more in total assets. Bank holding companies and savings and loan holding companies with substantial insurance or commercial operations are not covered by the final rule. Relative to the proposal issued in October 2013, the final rule includes changes to the range of corporate debt and equity securities included in HQLA, a phasing-in of daily calculation requirements, a revised approach to address maturity mismatch during a 30-day period, and changes in the stress period, calculation frequency, and implementation timeline for the bank holding companies and savings and loan companies subject to the modified LCR. Covered U.S. firms will be required to be fully compliant with the rule by January 1, 2017. Specifically, covered institutions will be required to maintain a minimum LCR of 80% beginning January 1, 2015. From January 1, 2016, through December 31, 2016, the minimum LCR would be 90%. Beginning on January 1, 2017, and thereafter, all covered institutions would be required to maintain an LCR of 100%.

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Prudential Regulators Finalize Supplementary Leverage Ratio Rule

On September 3, the OCC, the FDIC, and the Federal Reserve Board released a final rule that modifies the definition of the denominator of the supplementary leverage ratio in a manner consistent with recent changes agreed to by the Basel Committee. The revisions to the supplementary leverage ratio apply to all banking organizations subject to the advanced approaches risk-based capital rule. The final rule modifies the methodology for including off-balance sheet items, including credit derivatives, repo-style transactions, and lines of credit, in the denominator of the supplementary leverage ratio. The final rule also requires institutions to calculate total leverage exposure using daily averages for on-balance sheet items and the average of three month-end calculations for off-balance sheet items. Certain public disclosures required by the final rule must be made starting in the first quarter of 2015, and the minimum supplementary leverage ratio requirement using the final rule’s denominator calculations is effective January 1, 2018.

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AABD Makes Suggestions to Regulatory Agencies Regarding The Burdens Placed On America’s Bank Directors

On September 2, David Baris, President of the American Association of Bank Directors (AABD) and a Partner at BuckleySandler LLP, and Richard Whiting, Executive Director of the AABD, submitted a comment letter to  the Nation’s federal bank regulatory agencies in connection with the OCC, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, and the FDIC’s (the Agencies) request for public comment on their review of “regulations to identify outdated, unnecessary or unduly burdensome regulations for insured depository institutions.” In 2006, the Agencies completed a similar review and the AABD determined it was an “unsatisfactory and flawed process,” and wants to ensure that the same mistakes are not made during this review. Specifically, the AABD urged that during this review, the Agencies should “review regulatory guidance in light of the practical effect of such guidance on the behavior of both bank board of directors and the Agencies.” On behalf of the AABD, Baris stated in a press release that the current laws, regulations and guidance “create a huge and counterproductive impact on bank directors that causes them to divert their attention away from the essential job of being a bank director – that is meeting their duty of care and loyalty by overseeing the institution.”  In an effort to address the effects of the “current regulatory system on the Nation’s bank board of directors,” the AABD’s letter included the following recommendations to the Agencies: (i) review current regulations and written guidance to determine their effect on bank directors; (ii) incorporate into their current procedures a requirement that “future regulatory actions consider the impact of proposed rules and guidance on bank directors and not add new burdens unless the benefits of the proposed action clearly outweighs the burdens place[d] on bank directors”; (iii) identify, consolidate, and clarify the provisions that place burdens on bank directors; and (iv) implement rules that allow the board of directors to “delegate management duties to management and rely reasonably on management.”

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Federal Reserve Board Reports On Prepaid Cards, Domestic Payments

Recently, the Federal Reserve Board released two payments-related reports: (i) a report to Congress on government-administered general use prepaid cards; and (ii) a detailed report on the Federal Reserve’s 2013 payments study. The report on government-administered prepaid cards analyzes the $502 million in fee revenue collected by issuers in 2013, a majority of which was attributable to interchange fees. For consumer-related fees, the report indicates such fees derived primarily from ATM-related charges. The second report details findings from the 2013 Federal Reserve Payments Study, the fifth in a series of triennial studies conducted by the Federal Reserve System to comprehensively estimate and study aggregate trends in noncash payments in the United States. The paper expands on the 2013 summary findings originally published last December, and includes, among many other things, the following new findings: (i) credit cards are more prevalent than other general-purpose card types; (ii) among general-purpose cards with purchase activity in 2012, consumers preferred debit cards, with an average use of 23 payments per month, compared with an average of 11 payments per month for general-purpose credit cards and 10 payments per month for general-purpose prepaid cards; (iii) although the number of ATM cash withdrawals using debit cards and general-purpose prepaid cards dropped slightly, growth in the value of ATM withdrawals continued to exceed inflation; (iv) the number of online bill payments reported by major processors, which included those initiated through online banking websites and directly through billers and settled over ACH, exceeded three billion in 2012; and (v) there were more than 250 million mobile payments made using a mobile wallet application, and at least 205 million person-to-person or money transfer payments.

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