Congress Seeks Answers from Bank CEO and Federal Bank Regulators

On September 20, the CEO of a major national bank faced questions from the House Financial Services Committee over consumer account practices uncovered during a recent enforcement action by the CFPB. The CEO will return to Capitol Hill on September 29 for additional testimony in front of the Committee. In addition, the Director of the CFPB and the Comptroller of the Currency faced scrutiny from the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs on their agencies awareness of, and failure to prohibit, the bank’s alleged actions for more than two years. In prepared testimony, Director Cordray indicated that the civil penalty levied against the bank was the “largest fine by far that the Consumer Bureau has imposed on any financial company to date” calling it a “dramatic amount as compared to the actual financial harm to consumers” but also “justified here by the outrageous and abusive nature of these fraudulent practices on such an enormous scale.” Director Cordray further stated that this enforcement action should help clarify how the CFPB will continue to analyze and enforce the prohibition on “abusive” practices under its mandate.  Meanwhile Comptroller Curry explained how this enforcement action demonstrates the complimentary roles played by the OCC and the CFPB in supervising bank practices.

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OCC Lays Out Supervision Plan for 2017

On September 14, the OCC released its bank supervision operating plan for fiscal year 2017. The plan identifies the OCC’s priority objectives, which include: (i) commercial and retail loan underwriting; (ii) business model sustainability and viability; (iii) operational resiliency; (iv) BSA/AML compliance; and (v) processes to address regulatory changes. Moreover, the plan affirms that the OCC will look at each individual bank’s key risks, and will continue the process of stress testing, both for large banks and for midsize and community banks.

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Congressman Responds to Comptroller on Fintech

On September 20, U.S. Representative David Schweikert (R-AZ) sent a letter to Comptroller of the Currency Thomas Curry, asking the OCC to consider a more flexible and uniform approach for regulating digital currencies and the use of blockchain technology. Specifically, the letter notes that much of the development of digital currencies does not originate within institutions that are already federally chartered. Representative Schweikert further argues that most institutions active in this area do not wish to engage in traditional lending or deposit-taking activity, and instead seek a more limited scope of regulation. Thus, the letter asks Comptroller Curry to consider the following questions as the OCC continues to formulate its policy on digital currencies: (i) can the OCC create a limited purpose charter for non-bank financial service firms operating in this area? (ii) can the OCC take steps to coordinate with AML/CTF authorities, and state regulators, to develop flexible approaches that would allow U.S. digital currency firms to be competitive in light of various foreign regulatory frameworks? and (iii) how can the OCC help to facilitate relationships between digital currency firms and national banks?

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OCC Comptroller Curry Addresses Regulatory Concern Related to Fintech Industry; Outlines Possible Fintech Charter

On September 13, OCC Comptroller Curry delivered remarks at the Marketplace Lending Policy Summit, an inaugural event during which policy implications and regulatory concerns prevalent in the marketplace lending industry were discussed. Similar to past reports and remarks about marketplace lending, Curry expressed concern that the underwriting and business models used by the industry have yet to go through a complete credit cycle: “A less favorable credit cycle will test this business in ways it hasn’t yet experienced, and how sources of funding will hold up under stress remains to be seen.” In addition, drawing attention to the “long-term performance” issues related to marketplace lending, Curry posed the following inquiries: (i) whether new credit underwriting technologies and algorithms comply with existing laws and regulations, such as the Equal Credit Opportunity Act; (ii) whether existing laws, such as the Community Reinvestment Act, should be “amended radically” to ensure that consumers are sufficiently protected against nonbank lenders; (iii) whether an entirely new regulation or law is needed to “protect the public’s interest or prevent risk to the broader financial system”; and (iv) whether innovation itself should be regulated, and, if so, by which primary regulator(s). Notably, Comptroller Curry revealed that the OCC is in the process of developing a potential federal “fintech charter,” a framework that is expected to be released this fall. Comptroller Curry emphasized that, if the OCC grants limited-purpose fintech charters, institutions receiving the charters “will be held to the same strict standards of safety, soundness, and fairness that other federally chartered institutions must meet.”

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OCC Proposes Framework for Placing Uninsured Banks into Receivership

On September 13, the OCC published a proposed rule under the authority of the National Bank Act, to provide a framework for receiverships for national banks that are not insured by the FDIC. For years the OCC has not placed uninsured banks into receivership, but the agency claims that establishing a clear and efficient process for handling failed uninsured banks would “contribute to the broader stability of the federal banking system.” Intended to “provide clarity to market participants about how they will be treated in receivership,” the OCC’s proposed framework outlines processes parallel to that of the FDIC’s receivership capacities. The proposal describes, among other things, (i) certain powers the receiver would hold, as well as the receiver’s duties in “winding up” an uninsured bank’s affairs; (ii) the process for submitting claims against the uninsured bank in receivership, and the receiver’s responsibilities to review such claims; (iii) the payment of dividends on claims and the distribution to shareholders of residual proceeds; and (iv) the receiver’s powers and duties related to the status of fiduciary and custodial accounts. Comments on the proposal are due November 14, 2016.

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