Financial Institution Regulation

On October 11, 2023, President Biden, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair Lina Khan, and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Rohit Chopra announced the latest developments in the government’s efforts to tackle junk fees. Junk fees are hidden, surprise fees imposed on customers without clear disclosure.[1] The CFPB and FTC have taken several measures to crack down on junk fees since early 2022, including:

  • On January 26, 2022, the CFPB issued a request for information regarding fees that consumers believed to be covered by a baseline price, unexpected fees, and fees that seemed too high or unclear.[2]
  • On March 23, 2023, the FTC proposed a “click to cancel” provision requiring sellers to make it easier for consumers to cancel their recurring subscriptions and memberships.[3]
  • On June 22, 2022, the CFPB issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to address excessive credit-card late fees. [4] On February 1, 2023, the CPFB issued a proposed rule limiting and capping late fees.[5]
  • On June 29, 2022, the CFPB issued an advisory opinion affirming that “pay-to-pay” fees that are not authorized by the original loan violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). “Pay-to-pay” fees are those that are imposed on consumers who want to make a payment in a particular way.[6]
  • On July 23, 2022, the FTC proposed a rule to ban junk fees and bait-and-switch tactics for car buyers.[7]
  • On October 20, 2022, the FTC published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to crack down on junk fees, seeking comments on unnecessary charges, unavoidable charges, and surprise charges.[8]
  • On October 26, 2022, the CFPB issued guidance stating that imposing surprise bounced-check or overdraft fees are likely to be unfair and unlawful.[9]
  • On October 11, 2023, the CFPB published a Supervisory Highlights special edition covering junk fees in the areas of bank accounts, auto-loan servicing, and remittances that were identified during CFPB examinations between February and August 2023. The CFPB claims to have recovered and is refunding $140 million back to impacted customers.[10]

Earlier this week, the CFPB released an advisory opinion on fees related to consumers requesting information on products and services, and the FTC proposed a new rule banning hidden fees and bogus fees.Continue Reading The FTC and CFPB Announce New Rules to Tackle Junk Fees

In the wake of Silvergate’s collapse, Silicon Valley Bank entering receivership and another bank following in SVB’s footsteps, startups and other companies directly affected by these events are struggling to manage their payroll and other obligations while credit facilities are frozen. Although depositors likely will be fully protected and most businesses can expect to avoid

In December 2022, California’s new commercial lending disclosure law and complementary regulations went into effect, leading the way for other states to follow.

The new California law imposes disclosure requirements in commercial lending transactions. While this is not new for consumer lenders that are accustomed to complying with the Truth in Lending Act, this is uncharted territory in the commercial lending space. Like the federal Truth in Lending Act, the new California law is meant to provide prospective borrowers with an opportunity to see a concise summary of the obligation’s terms in an easy-to-read format. Ideally, this allows a prospective borrower to take the terms offered by two or more lenders and compare them, side by side, to determine the best offer.Continue Reading California Leads the Way on Commercial Lending Disclosures

On December 15, 2022, the Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) issued a lengthy Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to implement beneficial ownership information (“BOI”) access and safeguards provision of the Corporate Transparency Act (“CTA”) (the “Access NPRM”).  The Access NPRM provides a framework by which authorized recipients may access BOI, providing different tiers of access for agencies and financial institutions who may seek this information in connection with anti-money laundering efforts.Continue Reading FinCEN Issues Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Access to Beneficial Owner Information

On October 13, 2022, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (“Board”) announced multiple enforcement actions against former employees of several financial institutions because the former employees made false statements to obtain economic injury disaster loans and grants from the U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) or paycheck protection loans from SBA-approved lenders.  The loans and grants were made available to small businesses who were suffering from the impact of COVID-19 and needed emergency financial assistance authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (P.L. 116-136, the “CARES Act”). Continue Reading Federal Reserve Exercises Broad Disciplinary Authority to Sanction Former Bank Employees Who Committed PPP Loan Fraud

The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, the National Credit Union Administration, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (collectively the “Agencies”) issued a Joint Statement on July 6, 2022, reminding banks[1] of the “risk-based approach to assessing customer relationships and conducting customer due diligence (CDD).”  The Joint Statement reminds banks that the Agencies consider a blanket approach of assessing customer risk, based solely on the type of customer (e.g., casino, auto dealer, etc.), to be inappropriate.  Specifically, the Joint Statement urges financial institutions not to simply ascribe the same level of risk to all customers of a particular type. Rather, banks must use a risk-based approach that evaluates the specific customer at issue when creating customer profiles and when establishing and maintaining customer relationships.  Further, the Joint Statement expresses a preference for enhanced monitoring rather than exiting customer relationships as part of de-risking.[2]
Continue Reading Bank Regulators Remind Financial Institutions Not to Take a One-Size Fits All Approach to Assessing AML Risks from Customer Relationships

On June 22, 2022, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued a Statement on Bank Secrecy Act Due Diligence for independent ATM owners and operators.  The purpose of the statement is to “provide clarity to banks on how to apply a risk-based approach to conducting customer due diligence (CDD) on independent Automated Teller Machine (ATM) owners or operators, consistent with the requirements set out in FinCEN’s 2016 CDD Rule.”

Under FinCEN’s 2016 CDD Rule, banks are required to establish and maintain written policies and procedures reasonably designed to identify and verify “beneficial owners of legal entity customers.”   This Rule extends to conducting CDD on independent ATM owners and operators who maintain bank accounts to supply cash for their ATMs and to settle the electronic funds transfers used to process ATM transactions.Continue Reading FinCEN Issues Statement on BSA Due Diligence for Independent ATM Owners and Operators

On June 3, 2022, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen) issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking  proposing public comment on the enactment of a no-action letter process.  This Advanced Notice follows FinCen’s Report to Congress submitted in June 2021 that was based on FinCen’s consultation with the Attorney General, State bank supervisors, State credit union supervisors, and other Federal agencies and regulators.  In its report, FinCen evaluated the difficulties it faces because of the overlap between its enforcement authority and other regulators.  FinCen also examined the benefits and concerns on how a no-action letter process could affect illicit finance risks.  FinCen stated that the primary benefits of a no-action letter process “are that it could promote a robust and productive dialogue with the public, spur innovation among financial institutions, and enhance the culture of compliance and transparency in the application and enforcement of BSA.”  Ultimately, FinCen concluded that it should establish a rulemaking to create a no-action letter process.
Continue Reading FinCEN Proposes No-Action Letter Process

On May 26, three days into her term as Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve, Lael Brainard testified about the Federal Reserve’s Examination of the Benefits and Risks of a U.S. Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) before the House Committee on Financial Services.  Vice Chair Brainard’s comments reinforced many of the themes from the Fed’s January 2022 discussion paper [1], echoing the need for “clear regulatory guardrails to provide consumer and investor protection” in the rapidly developing digital assets markets while the Federal Reserve considers whether future conditions may give rise to the need for the United States to adopt a CBDC.
Continue Reading Is the Future of the Dollar Digital? The Fed Talks Updating Greenbacks to the Blockchain

Fintech lender Opportunity Financial (“OppFi”) and the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (“DFPI”), California’s financial-services regulator, filed dueling claims as they battle over state efforts to enjoin the company’s branded loans, which exceed California’s 36% interest-rate cap. This is the latest effort by fintech lenders to cement the True Lender Rule against state opposition.
Continue Reading Opportunity Financial’s Lawsuit Against California’s Financial-Services Regulator Signals Continued Fight Over “True Lender” Principles