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HUBZone program expansion

The SBA has announced the expansion of HUBZone, a program that provides small businesses in low-income communities that hire low-income residents opportunities to compete in the federal marketplace.

The announcement makes Illinois the first state to have the newly created Governor-Designated Covered HUBZones. Under the new HUBZone rule, a governor may submit one petition per year requesting that SBA designate certain qualifying areas, including Opportunity Zones as Governor-Designated Covered Areas. In reviewing a request for designation included in the petition, the Administrator may consider how the selections meet the objectives of the state’s economic development strategies. The newly designated areas will be added to the HUBZone map as “Governor-Designated Covered Areas.”

To be eligible for this program, communities must have a population of 50,000 or fewer, an average unemployment rate at least 120 percent of the average unemployment rate for the U.S. or state (whichever is lower), and be located outside of an urbanized area.


OCC to reconsider June 2020 CRA rule

The OCC has announced it has determined that it will reconsider the final Community Reinvestment Act rule published on June 5, 2020. While this reconsideration is ongoing, the OCC will not object to the suspension of the development of systems for, or other implementation of, provisions with a compliance date of January 1, 2023, or January 1, 2024, under the 2020 rule.

At this time, the OCC also does not plan to finalize the December 4, 2020, proposed rule that requested comment on an approach to determine the CRA evaluation measure benchmarks, retail lending distribution test thresholds, and community development minimums under the June 2020 rule. In addition, the OCC is discontinuing the CRA information collection pursuant to the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) notice published in the Federal Register in December 2020.

While this reconsideration is ongoing, the OCC will not implement or rely on the evaluation criteria in the June 2020 rule pertaining to:

  • quantification of qualifying activities (12 CFR 25.07 and 25.08);
  • assessment areas (12 CFR 25.09);
  • general performance standards (12 CFR 25.10 through 25.13);
  • data collection (12 CFR 25.21);
  • recordkeeping (12 CFR 25.25); and
  • reporting (12 CFR 25.26).

The OCC will continue to implement the provisions of the June 2020 CRA rule that had a compliance date of October 1, 2020. The OCC interpreted and explained these provisions in OCC Bulletin 2020-99. These implementation efforts include:

  • issuance of OCC Bulletin 2021-5 providing bank type determinations, lists of distressed and underserved areas, and the median hourly compensation value for community development service activities;
  • deployment of the CRA Qualifying Activities Confirmation Request process for banks and other stakeholders to request confirmation whether an activity meets the qualifying criteria under the June 2020 CRA rule; and
  • provision of training on provisions of the June 2020 rule with the October 1, 2020, compliance date in a series of webinars for examiners and bankers.


OCC report on key risks and effect of pandemic

The OCC has released a report on the key issues facing the federal banking system and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the federal banking industry in its Semiannual Risk Perspective for Spring 2021. Highlights from the report include:

  • Credit risk is elevated and transitioning as the economic downturn continues to affect some borrowers’ ability to service debts. Assistance programs and federal, state, and local stimulus programs have suppressed past-due levels.
  • Strategic risks associated with banks’ management of Net Interest Margin compression and efforts to improve earnings is elevated. Banks attempting to improve earnings may implement measures including cost cutting, increasing credit risk (both credit and investments) or extending duration.
  • Operational risk is elevated due to a complex operating environment and increasing cybersecurity threats.
  • Compliance risk is elevated as banks’ expedited efforts to implement assistance programs continue to challenge established change management, product, and service risk management practices.

The report also highlights the low interest rate environment as a special topic in emerging risks.


Enterprises' duty to serve underserved markets

The FHFA yesterday published a request for input on the proposed 2022-2024 Underserved Markets Plans submitted by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) under the Duty to Serve program. The FHFA will accept public input on the proposed plans during a 60-day public input period beginning on May 18 [ending on July 17, 2021].


Yellen meets with ABA Board

Treasury Secretary Yellen met yesterday with members of the American Bankers Association Board of Directors to discuss ways the Treasury Department and the ABA can work together to facilitate a strong recovery over the short-term and a robust economic expansion over the longer-term. The Secretary highlighted the role of banks as a necessary source of strength due to their critical role channeling emergency government support to households and businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Impact Payments.

Secretary Yellen also noted the crucial role banks can play as part of the Biden Administration’s historic investments in both infrastructure and the essential services for families—like childcare—to help drive broad-based growth. She also underscored the need for banks to embrace new technologies in coming years to expand financial services to underserved communities and the need for banks and regulators to collaborate to ensure robust and fair competition as technologies change financial intermediation.


FDIC seeks info on digital assets activities

The FDIC has issued a Request for Information and comments regarding insured depository institutions’ current and potential digital assets activities. In FIL-35-2021, the agency reported that—

  • Banks are increasingly exploring several roles in the emerging digital asset ecosystem, and consumers are beginning to seek access to digital assets products and services, such as being custodians, reserve holders, issuers, and exchange or redemption agents; performing node functions; and holding digital asset issuers’ money deposits.
  • The FDIC recognizes there are novel and unique considerations related to digital assets. This Request for Information is intended to help inform the FDIC’s understanding and any potential policymaking in this area.
  • Part 362 of the FDIC’s Rules and Regulations may apply to certain digital asset activities or investments. FDIC-supervised institutions are encouraged to engage in discussions with FDIC supervisors, as appropriate, before engaging in such activities or investments.
  • Comments will be accepted through July 16, 2021.


Credit risk transfers report published

The Federal Housing Finance Agency has announced the publication of a report on the performance of Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's (the Enterprises) single-family credit risk transfers (CRTs). The report focuses on securities issuance and insurance/reinsurance credit risk sharing vehicles, which account for about 90 percent of all CRT issuance to date.

CRTs remain untested by a serious loss event. With the prospect of potential future losses at the onset of COVID-19, some investors suggested that their willingness to continue to invest in CRTs was contingent on the Enterprises' amending or suspending certain contractual provisions of early fixed-severity securities issuances. The Enterprises affirmed that COVID-related forbearance mortgages would be treated as specified in the contracts and disclosures.

The report identifies several areas beyond its scope that are in need of research and analysis to inform the future direction of the CRT programs: (1) more accurate measurement of the amount of credit risk transferred via CRTs over time, as well as CRT-related costs and benefits; (2) the Enterprises' exposure to counterparty risk through insurance/reinsurance CRTs and the costs, benefits, and potential risks of the Enterprises' approaches to mitigate counterparty risk; (3) the efficacy of, and potential costs and benefits of innovations to, certain features of CRT structures; and (4) the value of the information about credit risk that has been and can be derived from CRT pricing.


Agencies extend comment period for info gathering on uses of AI

The Fed, CFPB, FDIC, NCUA, and OCC have announced they are extending the comment period on their request for information on financial institutions' use of artificial intelligence (AI) until July 1, 2021.

The agencies are seeking information from the public on how financial institutions use AI in their activities, including fraud prevention, personalization of customer services, credit underwriting, and other operations. More specifically, the RFI seeks comments to better understand the use of AI, including machine learning, by financial institutions; appropriate governance, risk management, and controls over AI; and challenges in developing, adopting, and managing AI.

  • PUBLICATION UPDATE: Published at 86 FR 27960 on 5/24/2021


CFPB proposes settlement with DMB Financial

The CFPB has requested a federal district court to enter a final judgment and order that, if entered by the court, would require DMB Financial, LLC to pay consumers at least $5.4 million for charging unlawful fees and failing to provide required disclosures to its customers, and a civil penalty. The CFPB alleges that DMB’s actions violated the Federal Trade Commission's Telemarketing Sales Rule and the Consumer Financial Protection Act.

DMB Financial is a Beverly, Massachusetts-based debt-settlement company that operates in at least 24 states. DMB offers and provides services to settle or renegotiate unsecured debt on behalf of consumers. In December 2020 the CFPB filed a lawsuit against DMB Financial in federal district court in Massachusetts alleging that the company had charged unlawful upfront frees before it performed its promised services, and before consumers began making payments under any debt settlement.

The CFPB alleges that DMB Financial violated the TSR and CFPA. DMB’s violations center around:

  • Unlawful fees: DMB Financial allegedly charged fees before some consumers had made at least one payment to a creditor under a settlement agreement and charged some consumers fees even though it did not negotiate a settlement. The company also allegedly collected fees that were calculated on the consumer’s debt amount after their time of enrollment in one of DMB’s debt-settlement programs.
  • Improper disclosures: DMB Financial allegedly failed to disclose the amount that a consumer must save before making a settlement offer and the time by which it would make a settlement offer. The company also allegedly deceived consumers about settlement fees, including by charging settlement fees greater than what was disclosed in the enrollment agreement.

The proposed judgment and order, if entered by the court, would require DMB Financial to:

  • Refund harmed consumers: The order, if entered by the court, would impose a judgment of $7.7 million against DMB Financial, LLC, which would be suspended upon its paying consumers $5.4 million.
  • Stop deceptive practices: DMB Financial would be prohibited from engaging in the unlawful and deceptive practices alleged by the CFPB.
  • Pay a civil penalty: The order would also impose a penalty of $1 to be paid to the Bureau and deposited into the CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund. By requiring the DMB Financial to pay a penalty of $1, the order may make consumers eligible for additional relief from the CFPB Civil Penalty Fund in the future, although that determination has not yet been made.



The CFPB has added five new FAQs relating to housing assistance loans to its TRID FAQs page. The new FAQs explain how the Building Up Independent Lives and Dreams ("BUILD") Act affects the TRID rule requirements for certain housing assistance loans.


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