Representatives of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”), the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) testified on Thursday, November 29 before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs (“Banking Committee”) on anti-money laundering (“AML”) issues.

The testimony highlighted some tensions between the views of the different regulators, with the OCC appearing to be supportive of providing some regulatory relief to financial institutions, while FinCEN continues to see the value of the current requirements under the Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”). Coming on the heels of reports that a bipartisan group of Senators are working on BSA reform legislation, the testimony revealed that FinCEN at least may prove reluctant to support some of the proposed reforms.


Continue Reading Senate Testimony Highlights Tensions in BSA/AML Reform Efforts as Lawmakers Consider Bipartisan Legislation

On Tuesday October 2, leaders of the federal prudential regulators testified before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs (“Banking Committee”) on their agencies’ efforts to implement the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (“EGRRCPA” or the “Act”). All of the regulators expressed support for the goals of EGRRCPA, particularly with respect to tailoring regulations, and highlighted the steps being taken to implement the law.

The witnesses at the hearing were: Joseph Otting, Comptroller, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”); Randal Quarles, Vice Chairman for Supervision, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (“FRB”); Jelena McWilliams, Chairman, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”); and J. Mark McWatters, Chairman, National Credit Union Administration (“NCUA”).

This post summarizes below, as highlighted in the witnesses’ testimony:

  • some of the key steps these agencies have taken to implement the Act, which include the release of a number of proposed and interim final rules; and
  • the steps the agencies intend to take next, including tailoring enhanced prudential standards for larger bank holding companies (“BHCs”).


Continue Reading After Senate Banking Committee Testimony, Where Does Dodd-Frank Reform Stand?

On September 11, 2018, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the National Credit Union Administration, and the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (the “Bureau”, and, collectively, the “Agencies”) issued a statement “clarifying the role of supervisory guidance.” The release affirms that the Agencies “do not take enforcement actions based on supervisory guidance” and that such guidance “does not have the force and effect of law.” This statement continues a recent pattern in regulatory policy of downplaying the force of guidance documents, at least as they relate to enforcement actions.

The statement explains that, rather than create binding rules with the force and effect of law, guidance “outlines supervisory expectations or priorities” and/or provides examples of practices the Agencies consider acceptable under applicable legal standards, such as safety and soundness standards. Further, the Agencies state that guidance is often issued in part as a response to requests from supervised institutions to “provide insight to industry” and help “ensure consistency in the supervisory approach.”


Continue Reading Banking Regulators Issue Joint Policy Statement Downplaying the Role of Supervisory Guidance in Enforcement

On August 31, 2018, the California Senate approved a “clean-up” bill that, if signed by the governor, would amend the California Consumer Privacy Act (“CCPA”), California’s sweeping new privacy law enacted in June.  The amendments fall short of addressing many of the most significant criticisms of the CCPA, and are, on the whole, relatively minor.

Following enactment of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act (“EGRRCPA”) in May 2018, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (“FRB”), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”), and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC” and collectively, the “Agencies”), have begun the process of implementing the regulatory relief required under the law.

Most recently, the Agencies issued two interim final rules under EGRRCPA, and Senate Republicans submitted a letter to FRB Vice Chairman for Supervision Randal Quarles expressing concern about recent public comments by FRB leadership.

Interim Final Rule Regarding High-Quality Liquid Assets – Municipal Securities

On August 22, 2018, the Agencies issued an interim final rule to treat certain municipal securities as high-quality liquid assets. EGRRCPA required the Agencies to amend their liquidity coverage ratio (LCR) rule to treat municipal obligations that are “liquid and readily-marketable” and “investment grade” as high-quality liquid assets, and the interim rule implements this requirement.


Continue Reading Dodd-Frank Reform Update: Banking Agencies Issue Two Interim Final Rules; Senate Republicans Push for Regulatory Relief for Certain Banks

On March 22, 2018, the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) issued a report on the regulation of financial technology (“fintech”) in response to a request from Congress for more information on “fintech activities.” The report concludes that agencies that regulate fintech firms should coordinate with each other more closely, develop offices of innovation (for agencies that have no already done so), and consider adopting approaches to fintech used in foreign jurisdictions, such as the “regulatory sandbox” approach used by the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority. GAO also reports on a few innovation initiatives under consideration by agencies such as the OCC and CFTC.

The GAO’s analysis focuses on the following fintech areas: payments, lending, wealth management and financial advice, and blockchain/distributed ledger technology, including virtual currency.  The report is the product of interviews with over 100 fintech stakeholders, including representatives of fintech firms, financial institutions, trade associations, law firms, consumer groups, and federal and state financial regulators.


Continue Reading GAO Publishes Report on Fintech Regulation

Yesterday afternoon, Acting Director Mulvaney sent an email to the entire CFPB staff in which he drew a sharp contrast with the views of his predecessor, Director Richard Cordray, and outlined a new direction  for the Bureau.

In explaining how “things would be different” at the Bureau, Acting Director Mulvaney  criticized the agency’s aggressive approach

On September 29, 2017, a coalition of bank and trade associations filed a federal court challenge to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (“CFPB” or the “Bureau”) arbitration rule. The industry group plaintiffs allege that the arbitration rule is illegal on four grounds, including that the CFPB’s actions are unconstitutional, and that the Bureau violated the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”) in conducting and interpreting the arbitration study it used to justify the rule.

The Bureau published its final arbitration rule in July. As we have explained previously, the regulation would generally prohibit financial services businesses from including arbitration clauses in consumer contracts unless those arbitration clauses expressly permit class actions to proceed in court. In reaching the conclusion that the arbitration rule was justified, the CFPB relied on a study it conducted on the effects of consumer arbitration clauses in the financial services industry.

The lawsuit argues that the district court should invalidate the arbitration rule on four grounds:

  1. The structure of the Bureau, with its single director removable only for cause, is unconstitutional, and this unconstitutionality “fatally infected” the passage of the rule. This constitutional argument has been previously raised in the PHH case, which we have previously discussed.
  2. The Bureau’s study into the effects of mandatory arbitration does not properly support the rule under the APA,  because it improperly limited public participation, used improper methodologies, misconstrued the data, and did not address additional essential considerations.
  3. The Bureau’s interpretation of this study also violated the APA because its conclusions ran counter to the factual record the Bureau developed, and thus was arbitrary and capricious.
  4. Adoption of the arbitration rule violated the directive of the Dodd-Frank Act to implement a rule limiting the use of consumer arbitration clauses only if such a rule was in the public interest and advanced consumer welfare. Along similar lines, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency recently published a report indicating that the arbitration rule would increase credit costs for consumers.


Continue Reading Industry Coalition Challenges CFPB Arbitration Rule in Court

On August 25, 2017, a federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Georgia dismissed five payment processor defendants from a CFPB lawsuit, following what the Court described as the repeated failure by the Bureau to follow court discovery orders. In particular, the Bureau refused to provide factual evidence supporting the elements

On Thursday, July 13, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen testified before the Senate Banking Committee. During this hearing, Chair Yellen stated that the Federal Reserve (the “Fed”) is open to modifying the threshold for designating banks as systematically important financial institutions (“SIFIs”). She reiterated that the Fed would not oppose raising the current asset threshold—which