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Top Story Compliance Related


Belarusian regime targeted

On Thursday, the Treasury Department announced that OFAC, in response to the Lukashenka regime’s blatant disregard for international norms and the wellbeing of its own citizens, has designated 20 individuals and 12 entities and identifying three aircraft as blocked property pursuant to Executive Orders (E.O.) 14038 and 13405.

As part of yesterday’s action, Treasury also imposed restrictions on dealings in new issuances of Belarusian sovereign debt in the primary and secondary markets, aligning with actions recently taken by allies and partners. OFAC has issued a new Belarus-related directive to hold the Lukashenka regime accountable for its actions and align with recent actions by U.S. partners and allies. Directive 1 under E.O. 14038 prohibits transactions in, provision of financing for, or other dealings by U.S. persons or within the United States in new debt with a maturity of greater than 90 days issued on or after December 2, 2021, by the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Belarus or the Development Bank of the Republic of Belarus. OFAC also issued eight new FAQs and updated another in connection with yesterday's actions.

For links to Directive 1, a new Belarus General License, and the new and revised FAQs, plus identity information on the individuals, entities and aircraft designated by OFAC, see the December 2, 2021, BankersOnline OFAC Update.


Bureau report on overdraft fees studies

The CFPB has released research on overdraft and non-sufficient funds revenue, which reached an estimated $15.47 billion in 2019. Three banks (JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America) brought in 44% of the total reported that year by banks with assets over $1 billion. The CFPB also found that while small institutions with overdraft programs charged lower fees on average, consumer outcomes were similar to those found at larger banks. The research also notes that, despite a drop in fees collected, many of the fee harvesting practices persisted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Previous CFPB research has shown that overdraft presents serious risks to consumers, with under 9% of consumer accounts paying 10 or more overdrafts per year, accounting for close to 80% of all overdraft revenue.

The first data point, Overdraft/NSF Fee Reliance Since 2015 – Evidence from Bank Call Reports, shows that banks’ revenues from overdraft and NSF fees have been stable, especially before the COVID-19 pandemic. From the beginning of reporting in 2015, aggregate overdraft and NSF fee revenues reported in Call Reports for banks with assets over $1 billion saw a small but steady annual increase of around 1.7% per year to $11.97 billion in 2019. Complementing the Call Report data with data on small institutions, CFPB researchers estimate that the overall market revenue from overdraft and NSF fees was $15.47 billion in 2019. These overdraft and NSF fees made up close to two-thirds of reported fee revenue, emphasizing banks’ heavy reliance on such fees.

The second data point, Checking Account Overdraft at Financial Institutions Served by Core Processors, provides the most detailed and wide-ranging quantitative historical data the Bureau or others have collected on overdraft policies, practices, and outcomes at small financial institutions [in 2014]. The data point looks at institution-level data from several core processors on the way credit unions and smaller banks set up their overdraft programs, and reviews data on consumer overdraft use and fee revenue for a 12-month time period predominantly covering 2014. CFPB researchers report that 92.9% of smaller banks and 60.9% of credit unions had an overdraft program, making such programs less common at these institutions than among large banks. The smaller institutions were also less likely to offer the option to opt in to debit card overdraft, with two thirds of institutions with overdraft offering this option. And, while overdraft and NSF fees were 13 to 19% lower at small banks and credit unions than at large banks, credit unions and small banks with an overdraft program earned $42.33 and $40.37 in annual overdraft revenue per account, respectively, which was just 6% and 11% less than large banks, respectively.

The CFPB said it will be enhancing its supervisory and enforcement scrutiny of banks that are heavily dependent on overdraft fees. In recent years, the CFPB ordered TD Bank to pay $122 million in penalties and customer restitution, and TCF Bank to pay $30 million in penalties and restitution.

BOL's John Burnett will present a webinar—Overdrafts: A Current View—on February 22, 2022.


Consumers defrauded by Lifewatch to receive refunds

The Federal Trade Commission has announced it is sending 71,899 checks for $25.15 (totaling more than $1.8 million) to consumers, including many older Americans, tricked into paying for supposedly free in-home medical alert devices. The money comes from a settlement with New York-based Lifewatch, Inc.

A complaint filed by the FTC jointly with the Florida Attorney General’s Office alleged that the defendants bombarded consumers with at least a billion unsolicited robocalls to pitch supposedly “free” medical alert systems. These pre-recorded messages claimed that Lifewatch’s medical alert system was endorsed or recommended by reputable organizations like the American Heart Association. The company’s telemarketers often told consumers that a medical alert system had been purchased for them, and they could receive it “at no cost whatsoever.” Consumers eventually learned that they were responsible for monthly monitoring fees and that it was difficult to cancel without paying a penalty.

In addition to imposing the monetary penalty to provide consumer refunds, the order settling the FTC’s charges bans the Lifewatch defendants from telemarketing and prohibits them from misrepresenting the terms associated with the sale of any product or service.


OCC announces 2022 fees and assessments

OCC Bulletin 2021-58, issued Wednesday, announced to national banks, federal savings associations, and federal branches and agencies of foreign banks the fees and assessments to be charged by the OCC in calendar year 2022.

  • For the 2022 assessment year, there will be no inflation adjustment to assessment rates.
  • The OCC assesses institutions that enter the federal banking system in the time between assessment cycles. Under current policy, the OCC will assess these new entrants to the federal charter on a prorated basis using call report information as of December 31 or June 30 depending on the date the institution enters the federal banking system. Institutions that enter the federal banking system in the time between assessment cycles and have not previously filed call reports will be assessed a prorated fraction of the lowest tier of the general assessment fee schedule, plus any additional assessments due under other assessment categories in 12 CFR 8. The OCC adopted this policy to ensure that supervisory efforts and resources are allocated and aligned once an institution is subject to the jurisdiction of the OCC. This proration policy is in line with the OCC’s refund policy for institutions that leave the federal banking system.
  • The OCC is increasing the hourly fee for special examinations and investigations to $155 from $150. The increase is to ensure adequacy in recovering the cost of conducting special examinations and investigations.

Details can be found in Bulletin 2021-58.


FFIEC BSA/AML exam manual updated

The Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) has updated sections and related examination procedures in the FFIEC Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering (BSA/AML) Examination Manual.

The sections affected include:

The sections remind examiners that no specific customer type automatically presents a higher risk of money laundering, terrorist financing, or other illicit financial activity.

Banks that operate in compliance with applicable BSA/AML requirements and reasonably manage and mitigate risks related to the unique characteristics of customer relationships are neither prohibited nor discouraged from providing accounts or services to any specific class or type of customer.

The Manual itself does not establish requirements for financial institutions; such requirements are found in statutes and regulations. Financial institutions should not interpret the updates as new instructions or an increased focus on certain areas; instead, the updates are intended to offer further transparency into the examination process and support risk-focused examination work.

New and revised Manual sections are identified by a 2021 date on the FFIEC BSA/AML InfoBase.

Related links:


Fed FAQs on transition away from LIBOR

The Federal Reserve Board's Supervision and Regulation Letter SR 21-12, revised in November, provides answers to frequently asked questions on the transition away from LIBOR. The November FAQs attached to the letter provide insight into how examiners will view actions of Board-supervised (state-chartered member) banks and holding companies with respect to LIBOR-linked transactions.


FDIC issues January–June CRA exam schedules

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has issued the lists of institutions scheduled for a Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) examination during the first quarter 2022 and second quarter 2022.

No specific target dates are listed for the examinations.


OCC CRA evaluation schedule for January–June

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has announced the release of its schedule of Community Reinvestment Act evaluations to be conducted in the first and second quarters of 2022. The list is sorted by state.


Agencies issue exemption threshold adjustments

The CFPB, Federal Reserve Board, and the OCC have published in the November 30, 2021, Federal Register final rules making inflation adjustments in exemption thresholds under Regulations M and Z. All of the adjustments will be effective for calendar year 2022:

  • The three agencies issued a final rule increasing the exemption threshold from the special appraisal requirements for higher-priced mortgage loans (HPMLs) from $27,200 to $28,500.
  • The Board and the CFPB posted a final rule increasing the threshold for exempt consumer leases under Regulation M from $58,300 to $61,000.
  • The Board and the CFPB published a final rule increasing the threshold for exempt consumer credit transactions under Regulation Z from $58,300 to $61,000.


    CFPB adjusts FCRA charge cap

    The CFPB has published at 86 FR 67649 of the November 29, 2021, Federal Register an amendment to Appendix O of Regulation V (12 CFR part 1022), increasing to $13.50 the dollar amount of the maximum allowable charge for disclosures by a consumer reporting agency to a consumer pursuant to the Fair Credit Reporting Act during the 2022 calendar year. The calendar year 2021 cap on that fee is $13.00.


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