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SEC reopens comment period on clawbacks proposal

The Securities and Exchange Commission has reopened the comment period on proposed rules for listing standards for the recovery of erroneously awarded compensation. The reopened comment period permits interested parties to submit further comments and data on rule amendments the Commission first proposed in 2015 as well as comments in response to questions being raised by the Commission now in its reopening release. In addition, interested parties may comment on developments since 2015 when the proposing release was issued, including trends in accounting practices and the potential economic and other effects of the proposal in light of any such developments.

“I support today’s action to reopen comment on the Dodd-Frank Act rule regarding clawbacks of incentive-based executive compensation,” said SEC Chair Gary Gensler. “I believe we have an opportunity to strengthen the transparency and quality of corporate financial statements, as well as the accountability of corporate executives to their investors.”

The public comment period will remain open for 30 days following publication of the release in the Federal Register.


FedPayments Improvement blog on B2B payments

The Federal Reserve's FedPayments Improvement task force has posted a blog article, "A New Era: Modernizing B2B Payments," discussing the risk of leaving business-to-business payments behind in the movement toward faster payments. As the U.S. payments landscape rapidly evolves, consumer payments are increasingly being completed faster, but B2B payments processes are still fragmented, often requiring manual processing with multiple steps and the opportunity for error. This lack of digitalization makes B2B payments more prone to fraud and more costly than other payments.

The Federal Reserve is coordinating with the industry to propel B2B payments toward modernized, electronic solutions that reduce manual intervention. To catalyze this evolution, the Fed and Business Payments Coalition (BPC) have organized work groups dedicated to change: optimizing efficiency in electronic invoicing and remittance delivery. These work groups are on the front line of B2B payments modernization, and their work will drive innovation in the United States.

The article announces a new YouTube promotional video, the first in a three-part series, on how the Fed’s collaboration with the industry today will transform B2B payments tomorrow.


New Money Smart educational tool

The FDIC has released How Money Smart Are You?, a suite of 14 self-paced games and related resources and the newest addition to FDIC’s Money Smart product family. This new educational tool provides practical knowledge to help consumers manage their finances with confidence. Users play games to learn more about borrowing money, managing debt, saving and investing. How Money Smart Are You? complements other Money Smart products that can be used in in conjunction with financial literacy activities, including webinars or workshops, in local communities. These products include resources to engage K-12 students, adults, older adults, and small businesses.


FHFA sets 2022 multifamily caps for Fannie/Freddie

The Federal Housing Finance Agency on Wednesday announced that the 2022 multifamily loan purchase caps for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) will be $78 billion for each Enterprise, for a combined total of $156 billion to support the multifamily market. The 2022 caps, which increased from $70 billion for each Enterprise in 2021, are based on FHFA's projections of the overall growth of the multifamily originations market.

FHFA will require that at least 50 percent of the Enterprises' multifamily business be mission-driven affordable housing. FHFA will also require at least 25 percent of the Enterprises' multifamily business be affordable to residents at or below 60 percent of area median income (AMI), up from 20 percent in 2021. In 2022, FHFA will allow loans on affordable units in cost-burdened renter markets and loans to finance energy or water efficiency improvements with units affordable at or below 60 percent of AMI to be classified as mission-driven.


FTC warns advertisers: honest opinions only

Last week, for-profit colleges and universities received warnings from the Federal Trade Commission. Yesterday, the FTC delivered a shot across the bow of advertisers. The Commission sent a warning letter with a Notice of Penalty Offenses Concerning Endorsements and Testimonials to more than 700 companies with the message that they could incur significant civil penalties—up to $43,792 per violation—if they use endorsements in ways that run counter to prior FTC administrative cases.

The Notice sent to the companies outlines a number of practices that the FTC determined to be unfair or deceptive in prior administrative cases. These include, but are not limited to:

  • falsely claiming an endorsement by a third party
  • misrepresenting whether an endorser is an actual, current, or recent user
  • using an endorsement to make deceptive performance claims
  • failing to disclose an unexpected material connection with an endorser
  • misrepresenting that the experience of endorsers represents consumers’ typical or ordinary experience

The Commission's press release included a disclaimer that a company's inclusion on the list of letter recipients does not suggest it has engaged in deceptive or unfair conduct.


Study on impact of climate change

Treasury has announced it has launched a new effort to study the impact of climate change on households and communities. The Financial Literacy and Education Commission (FLEC) convened a meeting chaired by Under Secretary for Domestic Finance Nellie Liang to begin to explore the financial risks to households and communities, especially low-income and historically disadvantaged communities, of climate change and climate transition. FLEC will work to develop an understanding of:

  • how households, communities, and the smallest businesses experience financial resilience in the face of climate change and climate transition, supported by resilience-supporting financial products and financial infrastructure supporting environments.
  • how to map climate-related financial risks, and identify which groups and regions will be most impacted; and
  • what tools and best practices could be effective at addressing risks and vulnerabilities and how to implement them equitably.


September FOMC minutes released

The Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Open Market Committee on Wednesday released the minutes of the Committee meeting held on September 21–22, 2021.

Regarding the outlook for monetary policy, market participants noted policymaker communications suggesting that tapering of asset purchases could begin this year and end by mid-2022. Around half of respondents to the Desk's surveys of primary dealers and market participants viewed December as the most likely timing of the first reduction in the net pace of purchases, al­though respondents also attached significant probability to the first reduction coming in November. Median expectations for the pace of net purchases were consistent with a gradual tapering of net purchases being completed in July of next year, about one to two months earlier than in the previous surveys. Expectations for the target federal funds rate based on survey responses and interest rate futures moved up slightly since the previous meeting.

Inflation, as measured by either the PCE (Personal Consumption Expenditures) price index or the consumer price index (CPI), had been boosted by a surge in demand as the economy reopened further, along with the effects of production bottlenecks and supply constraints. Total PCE price inflation was 4.2 percent over the 12 months ending in July, and core PCE price inflation, which excludes changes in consumer energy prices and many consumer food prices, was 3.6 percent over the 12 months ending in July. In contrast, the trimmed mean measure of 12‑month PCE inflation constructed by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas was 2.0 percent in July. In August, the 12-month change in the CPI was 5.3 percent, while the core CPI rose 4.0 percent over the same period.

Members agreed that the Federal Reserve was committed to using its full range of tools to support the U.S. economy in this challenging time, thereby promoting its maximum employment and price stability goals. All members reaffirmed that, in accordance with the Committee's goals to achieve maximum employment and inflation at the rate of 2 percent over the longer run, and with inflation having run persistently below this longer-run goal, they would aim to achieve inflation moderately above 2 percent for some time so that inflation averages 2 percent over time and longer-term inflation expectations remain well anchored at 2 percent. Members expected to maintain an accommodative stance of monetary policy until those outcomes were achieved.

All members agreed to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent, and they expected that it would be appropriate to maintain this target range until labor market conditions had reached levels consistent with the Committee's assessments of maximum employment and inflation had risen to 2 percent and is on track to moderately exceed 2 percent for some time.


HUD announces $15.7 million in research grants

HUD has announced the awarding of $15.7 million to 18 universities, public health, and housing organizations to conduct housing-related hazard and energy efficiency research studies. Provided through HUD’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes (OLHCHH), the research grants aim to identify and improve methods for detecting and controlling lead and other housing-related health and safety hazards and will incorporate weatherization into residential lead and healthy homes interventions.


Fed Board joins Central Bank Network for Indigenous Inclusion

The Federal Reserve Board announced on Wednesday that it has joined the Central Bank Network for Indigenous Inclusion, which will foster ongoing dialogue, research, and education to raise awareness of economic and financial issues and opportunities around Indigenous economies. The Board's participation will be supported by the Center for Indian Country Development at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and the Economic Education Partnership with Indian Country the at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The network is a collaboration with Te Pūtea Matua (the Reserve Bank of New Zealand), the Bank of Canada, and the Reserve Bank of Australia.


SEC amends filing fee disclosure and payment methods

The SEC has adopted amendments to modernize filing fee disclosure and payment methods. Operating companies and investment companies (funds) pay filing fees when engaging in certain transactions, including registered securities offerings, tender offers, and mergers and acquisitions. The amendments revise most fee-bearing forms, schedules, and related rules to require companies and funds to include all required information for filing fee calculation in a structured format. The amendments also add new options for ACH and debit and credit card payment of filing fees and eliminate infrequently used options for filing fee payment via paper checks and money orders. The amendments are intended to improve filing fee preparation and payment processing by facilitating both enhanced validation through filing fee structuring and lower-cost, easily routable payments through the ACH payment option.

The amendments generally will be effective on January 31, 2022, but the changes adding options for filing fee payment via ACH and debit/credit card and eliminating the option for payment by paper checks and money orders will be effective May 31, 2022. The Commission's Fact Sheet on the changes includes additional implementation details.


Key CFPB senior leadership changes announced

The CFPB has announced leadership changes within the Bureau.

  • Zixta Q. Martinez will serve as Deputy Director, and in that role will oversee the Bureau’s Operations Division
  • Karen Andre will serve as Associate Director for Consumer Education & External Affairs
  • Jan Singelmann will serve as Chief of Staff
  • Erie Meyer will serve as Chief Technologist


DHS enforcement strategy to protect workers

DHS Secretary Mayorkas has directed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to take actions to promote a fair labor market by supporting more effective enforcement of wage protections, workplace safety, labor rights, and other employment laws and standards. He has issued a memorandum to ICE, CBP, and USCIS to develop and update policies to enhance the Department’s impact in supporting the enforcement of employment and labor standards. The agencies must also develop strategies for prioritizing workplace enforcement against unscrupulous employers and, through the exercise of prosecutorial discretion, facilitate the participation of vulnerable workers in labor standards investigations.


IRS awards $41M in TCE and VITA grants

The IRS has announced it has awarded over $41 million in Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) grants to organizations that provide free federal tax return preparation.

The TCE program, established in 1978, provides free tax counseling and federal return preparation to individuals who are age 60 or older. Volunteers receive training and technical assistance to provide assistance at community locations across the nation. The VITA program, created in 1969, assists underserved communities, such as low- and moderate-income individuals and limited English proficient taxpayers. VITA grant recipients provide free federal tax return preparation and electronic filing. The grant program helps to expand VITA services to underserved populations.


Victims of tech support scheme to receive checks

The Federal Trade Commission is sending 31,075 checks totaling nearly $300,000 to people who were deceived by Elite IT Partners Inc. into paying for costly and unnecessary computer repair services.

In a complaint filed in 2019, the FTC alleged that Elite IT used Internet ads to target consumers looking for help recovering their email passwords. Consumers who responded to Elite’s ads were encouraged to provide their names, email addresses, and phone numbers. Elite’s telemarketers then reached out to consumers—often pretending to be associated with well-known companies like Microsoft and Yahoo!—and pressured consumers to provide access to their computers. The telemarketers ran bogus “diagnostic” tests, claimed consumers’ computers and personal information were in imminent danger, and convinced many consumers to pay large sums for immediate cleaning of their computers, antivirus software, and ongoing technical support services. The FTC alleged that the scheme affected tens of thousands of consumers.


Fed bans former Banco Popular manager

The Federal Reserve Board of Governors has issued an Order of Prohibition Upon Consent to Ileana Acevedo Diaz after finding that, between 2017 and 2019, while employed as a branch manager of Banco Popular de Puerto Rico (San Juan), Acevedo Diaz made unauthorized transactions in a customer's individual retirement accounts, causing a loss of approximately $32,000 for the bank.

The bank terminated Acevedo Diaz on August 12, 2020, and she is no longer involved in banking. The Order bars her from participating in any manner in the business of banking.


CFPB files against American Advisors Group

The CFPB on Friday announced it has filed a complaint and proposed consent order alleging that American Advisors Group (AAG) used inflated and deceptive home estimates to lure consumers into taking out reverse mortgages. The CFPB also alleges that AAG’s deceptive conduct violated a 2016 administrative consent order that addressed AAG’s deceptive advertising of reverse mortgages. If entered by the court, the proposed consent order would prohibit AAG from future unlawful conduct and require AAG to pay $173,400 in consumer redress and a $1.1 million civil money penalty.

American Advisors Group, based in Irvine, California, is one of the nation’s leading providers of reverse mortgages. A reverse mortgage is a special type of home loan that allows homeowners who are 62 or older to access the equity they have built up in their homes and defer payment of the loan until they pass away, sell, or move out. The loan proceeds are generally provided to the borrowers as lump-sum payments, monthly payments, or as lines of credit. Homeowners remain responsible for paying taxes, insurance, and home maintenance, among other obligations.


FTC orders repeat offender to pay

The Federal Trade Commission has announced Resident Home LLC and owner Ran Reske will pay $753,000 to settle Commission charges that they made false, misleading, or unsupported advertising claims that their imported DreamCloud mattresses were made from 100% USA-made materials.

Resident Home LLC is the parent of Nectar Brand LLC (better known as Nectar Sleep), a company that had previously agreed to a 2018 FTC administrative order resolving allegations that it falsely advertised imported mattresses as “Assembled in USA.” Following the 2018 order, Reske, under penalty of perjury, stated that Resident had never made U.S.-origin claims about its DreamCloud mattress. This proved to be untrue. The proposed order entered into on Friday incorporates the terms of the 2018 order, orders the payment of $753,000, and expands the application of the 2018 order to all the entities under Reske's control.


Final payments made to CERTS recipients

Treasury announced on Friday it has sent the final payments to recipients of funding provided through the Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services (CERTS) program. Over 1,400 motorcoach, school bus, passenger vessel and pilotage companies representing all 50 states received grants – 93% of which are small businesses and more than 33% of which are minority-owned businesses.


FCC sets interim fees for Reassigned Numbers Database

The Federal Communication Commission has issued Public Notice DA 21-1240 announcing interim usage charges for the Commission's Reassigned Numbers Database (RND). Callers and caller agents will be able to use the Database to determine whether a telephone number has been reassigned from the consumer they intend to reach, thus allowing them to avoid calling consumers with reassigned numbers who may not wish to receive their call. The system is in beta test; the Database is expected to be available for full use on November 1, 2021.

The RND will offer six subscription tiers: Extra Small, Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large, and Jumbo. Those wishing to use the RND may sign up for a one-month subscription, a three-month subscription, or a six-month subscription. The RND Administrator expects to offer an annual subscription option in the future, as well.

The notice includes a table of each subscription size and duration. It ranges from $10 for a one-month subscription to the extra small tier (up to 1,000 queries) to $210,600 for a six-month subscription to the jumbo tier (up to 180 million queries).


Consumer credit increases

The Federal Reserve has released G.19 Consumer Credit data showing that in August, consumer credit increased at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4 percent. Revolving credit increased at an annual rate of 3.6 percent, while nonrevolving credit increased at an annual rate of 4.1 percent.


Fed Board announces enforcement actions

The Federal Reserve Board yesterday announced it had issued two enforcement actions.

  • Pioneer Bank, Mapleton, Minnesota, was ordered to pay a, $11,000 civil money penalty for a pattern or practice of unspecified violations of the National Flood Insurance Act and section 208.25 of Regulation H.
  • A former employee of Pacific Premier Bank, Irvine, California, was issued an order of prohibition and restitution in the amount of $18,700 for her improper involvement and personal financial interests in extensions of credit by the bank.


Victims of phantom debt collector to receive refunds

The Federal Trade Commission has announced it is returning $772,512 to consumers who were targeted by a debt collector who unlawfully brokered and collected fake debts that the consumers did not owe.

According to the complaint filed by the FTC and the New York Attorney General, Hylan Asset Management, LLC, and its owners, Andrew Shaevel and Jon E. Purizhansky, bought, placed for collection, and sold lists of phantom debts, including debts that were fake or imposed on consumers without their knowledge or consent. Hylan referred the fake debts to several collection agencies, including Worldwide Processing Group, LLC, which then illegally collected on them. Hylan continued to buy the portfolios and distribute them to third parties for collection even though it was repeatedly notified that consumers did not owe many of the debts, the FTC alleged. The defendants agreed to settle the case in 2019. As part of the settlement, they agreed to be banned permanently from the debt collection industry and surrendered funds to the FTC. The agency is using that money to send checks averaging $539 to 1,432 consumers.


China strengthens AML/CFT measures

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has issued a follow-up report on China’s measures to tackle money laundering and terrorist financing. China has been in an enhanced follow-up process following the adoption of its mutual evaluation in 2019. In line with the FATF Procedures for mutual evaluations, the country has reported back to the FATF on the action it has taken since its mutual evaluation. Consequently, to reflect China’s progress, the FATF has now re-rated the country.

Today, China is compliant on 9 of the 40 Recommendations and largely compliant on 22 of them. It remains partially compliant on 3 Recommendations and non-compliant on 6 Recommendations.


FTC puts for-profit colleges on notice

The Federal Trade Commission has announced it has put 70 for-profit higher education institutions on notice that the agency is cracking down on any false promises they make about their graduates’ job and earnings prospects and other outcomes and will hit violators with significant financial penalties.

The Commission is resurrecting its Penalty Offense Authority, found in Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, to ensure that bad actors pay a price when they break the law. By sending a Notice of Penalty Offenses to the institutions, which represent the largest for-profit colleges and vocational schools across the country, the companies operating these colleges will be on notice that they could incur significant sanctions for engaging in certain unlawful practices.

The notice outlines a number of practices that the FTC has previously found to be unfair or deceptive, and notes that these practices could lead to civil penalties of up to $43,792 per violation.

A full list of the institutions that received the Notice from the FTC is available on the FTC’s website. A school’s presence on this list does not reflect any assessment as to whether they have engaged in deceptive or unfair conduct.


ComE-IN meeting today

The FDIC will convene at 1:00 p. m. ET today a meeting of its Advisory Committee on Economic Inclusion (ComE-IN). The FDIC Board of Directors established ComE-IN in November 2006 to provide the agency with advice and recommendations on important initiatives to expand access to banking services for underserved populations.

Today's meeting agenda includes three panels of experts discussing the topics of innovation, recent housing market trends, and the opportunity to expand account access during tax season. The innovation panel will feature team members from the FDITECH Financial Inclusion Tech Sprint – “Breaking Down Barriers: Reaching the Last Mile of the Unbanked." The committee will also report out on key challenges and opportunities for inclusion in their communities.

This virtual meeting is open to the public via live webcast.


Renters in HUD programs to get time and notices before eviction

HUD has published [86 FR 55693] in this morning's Federal Register an interim final rule that will allow the Secretary, upon making the requisite findings and providing the requisite notice, to require housing providers participating in selected HUD programs to provide tenants facing eviction for non-payment of rent with notification of and information about the opportunity to secure emergency funding and additional time to secure such funding prior to eviction.

The rule, which becomes effective November 8, 2021, covers tenants facing eviction for nonpayment of rent in housing and properties in these programs:

  • Section 8
  • Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation
  • Section 202/152 Project Assistance Contract
  • Section 202 Project Rental Assistance Contract (PRAC)
  • Section 811 PRAC
  • Section 236 Rental Housing Assistance Program and Rent Supplement

Comments on the rule are due by November 8, 2021.


Treasury targets CJNG members

Yesterday, Treasury announced that OFAC had designated Mexican nationals Aldrín Miguel Jarquín Jarquín, José Jesús Jarquín Jarquín, César Enrique Díaz de León Saucedo, and Fernando Zagal Antón under the the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act). These four individuals are members of the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) operating through the port of Manzanillo in Colima, Mexico and the surrounding areas. CJNG, a violent Mexico-based organization, is responsible for trafficking a significant proportion of the fentanyl and other deadly drugs that enter the United States.

As a result of OFAC’s action, all property and interests in property of the designated individuals or entities that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC. OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all transactions by U.S. persons or persons within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons.

Since June 2000, more than 2,200 entities and individuals have been sanctioned pursuant to the Kingpin Act for their role in international narcotics trafficking. Penalties for violations of the Kingpin Act range from civil penalties of up to $1,548,075 per violation to more severe criminal penalties. Criminal penalties for corporate officers may include up to 30 years in prison and fines of up to $5 million. Criminal fines for corporations may reach $10 million. Other individuals could face up to 10 years in prison and fines pursuant to Title 18 of the United States Code for criminal violations of the Kingpin Act.

For identification details on the four designated individuals, see the BankersOnline October 6, 2021 OFAC Update.


Hemp company charged with fraud by SEC

The Securities and Exchange Commission has announced it has charged CanaFarma Hemp Products Corp. and its co-founders with fraudulently raising approximately $15 million from investors, and misappropriating a significant portion of the investor funds for personal use and other unrelated purposes.

The SEC’s complaint alleges that in 2019 and 2020, CanaFarma, a Canadian startup hemp company with offices in Vancouver and New York City, and its co-founders Vitaly Fargesen and Igor Palatnik raised millions of dollars from investors. According to the complaint, while raising these funds, the defendants made misrepresentations to investors, including claims that CanaFarma was a fully integrated company that was processing hemp from its own farm when in fact it had not processed any of this hemp and its products used hemp supplied by third parties. The complaint also alleges that financial information provided to investors misstated historical revenue numbers and included baseless projections about future revenues. In addition, according to the complaint, Fargesen and Palatnik misappropriated at least $4 million and used the funds for their personal use and purposes unrelated to CanaFarma.

The SEC seeks permanent injunctions, disgorgement and prejudgment interest, and civil penalties against the defendants, and also seeks officer-and-director and penny stock bars against them.

In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced criminal charges against Fargesen and Palatnik.


Reserve Banks release CRA ratings

Our research of the Federal Reserve Board's archives of CRA evaluation ratings reveals that the Reserve Banks released 18 evaluation ratings in September. Fifteen of the institutions whose evaluations were made public last month received a "Satisfactory" rating. We congratulate three institutions whose evaluations were rated "Outstanding":


Quarles on the end of LIBOR

On October 5, Federal Reserve Board Vice Chair for Supervision Randal K. Quarles spoke at The Structured Finance Association Conference in Las Vegas on "Goodbye to All That: The End of LIBOR."

Quarles reminded his audience that while LIBOR will no longer be a functional index after June 30, 2023, it will not be available for use in any new contracts after the end of 2021 — just 85 days from today. The Federal Reserve and other regulators have made it clear they will focus clearly on whether their supervised institutions stop new use of LIBOR by the end of this year. After that date, the only use for LIBOR will be as an index for older contracts, which should be maturing by June 2023. "Otherwise," said Quarles, "many banks would have had to re-negotiate hundreds of thousands of loan contracts before December 31, an almost impossible task."

"But the whole process only works", Quarles added, "if no new LIBOR contracts are written while the legacy contracts are allowed to mature. So, those new LIBOR contracts will not be made. Change is difficult, but it is inescapable."

Driving his point home, Quarles said, "A handful of firms have said that they may want more time to evaluate potential alternative rates. There is no more time, and banks will not find LIBOR available to use after year-end no matter how unhappy they may be with their options to replace it. I would note that the [Alternative Reference Rates Committee (ARRC)] has been publishing tools to facilitate the use of [the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR)] for almost four years. SOFR is a broad measure of the cost of borrowing cash overnight, collateralized by Treasury securities. It rests on one of the deepest and most liquid markets in the world. It is calculated transparently by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, engendering market confidence. And it can be used for all types of transactions. Notably, the ARRC recently recommended SOFR term rates, which will facilitate the transition from LIBOR to SOFR for market participants who wish to use a forward-looking rate. Given the availability of SOFR, including term SOFR, there will be no reason for a bank to use LIBOR after 2021 while trying to find a rate it likes better."

As for loans, Quarles offered, "Loans, however, are different from derivatives and capital markets products, and raise different issues. With respect to loans, the Federal Reserve, OCC, and FDIC issued a letter last year explaining that we have not endorsed a specific replacement rate. We have not changed that guidance. A bank may use SOFR for its loans, but it may also use any reference rate for its loans that the bank determines to be appropriate for its funding model and customer needs. But a bank will not find LIBOR available after year-end, even if it doesn't want to use SOFR for loans and hasn't chosen a different alternative reference rate. Reviewing banks' cessation of LIBOR use after year-end will be one of the highest priorities of the Fed's bank supervisors in the coming months. If market participants do use a rate other than SOFR, they should ensure that they understand how their chosen reference rate is constructed, that they are aware of any fragilities associated with that rate, and—most importantly—that they use strong fallback provisions."


Hsu on promoting diversity on bank boards

In remarks yesterday at the Women in Housing & Finance Public Policy Luncheon in Washington, D.C., Acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael J. Hsu discussed the importance of promoting diversity and inclusion in the financial services sector. "Without diverse leadership," said Hsu, "banks and their regulators may develop blind spots or suffer from groupthink. These blind spots can lead to the kinds of nasty surprises that threaten safety and soundness – and possibly the financial sector as a whole. There is a growing body of empirical evidence that companies that address these blind spots by having diverse boards of directors have stronger earnings, more effective corporate governance, better reputations, and less litigation risk.”

Hsu said the OCC is considering requiring banks “to either diversify their boards or explain why they have not.” He mentioned several models for implementing such requirements, including new Nasdaq rules, recently approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission, that require companies listed on the stock exchange to publicly disclose consistent transparent diversity statistics regarding their board composition; and diversity rules adopted by the California state legislature.


Changes to CSS board structure

The Federal Housing Finance Agency has announced that Common Securitization Solutions (CSS) is undertaking a series of actions to better align its corporate governance structure with its core mission of supporting the infrastructure for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) mortgage-backed securities issuance. Matthew Feldman has been named chairman of the Board of Managers at CSS to assist in this transition on an interim basis. After a nearly two-year review, FHFA determined that CSS should focus on maintaining the resiliency of the Enterprises’ mortgage-backed securities platform. This decision allows CSS to stay focused on the safety and soundness of the housing finance market and reduce unnecessary expenses as the Enterprises rebuild capital.


Scammed consumers to receive $1.1M

The Federal Trade Commission has announced it is returning more than $1.1 million to consumers who paid for an allegedly bogus money-making opportunity that called itself “8 Figure Dream Lifestyle.” The FTC sued 8 Figure Dream Lifestyle LLC and nine co-defendants in 2019 as part of a crackdown on robocallers across the country. In its complaint, the FTC alleged that the defendants used a combination of illegal robocalls, live telephone calls, text messaging, internet ads, emails, social media, and live events to market and sell consumers fraudulent money-making opportunities.


FDIC posts CRA evaluation ratings

The FDIC has released its October 2021 list of banks examiners for CRA compliance whose evaluations have recently been made public. Of the 71 banks listed, 60 received ratings of "Satisfactory." Two banks received "Needs Improvement" ratings. We congratulate nine banks whose evaluations were rated "Outstanding":


CFPB issues Debt Collection Rule FAQs

The CFPB has posted a new Compliance Aid—A series of 27 Frequently Asked Questions on the Debt Collection Rule (Regulation F, 12 CFR part 1006). The FAQs address five areas:

  • Limited-Content Messages (9)
  • Telephone Call Frequency (1)
  • Telephone Call Frequency: Presumptions (8)
  • Telephone Call Frequency: Excluded Calls (5)
  • Telephone Call Frequency: Rebutting the Presumptions (4)


    Call Report for third quarter 2021

    The Call Report forms for September 30, 2021, are available for printing and downloading from the FFIEC’s webpage for each version of the Call Report, which can be accessed from the FFIEC Reporting Forms webpage and the FDIC Bank Financial Reports webpage. Updates to the Call Report instruction books for September 2021 will be available soon on those webpages. In addition, institutions should refer to the Supplemental Instructions for guidance on certain reporting issues.


    Chopra confirmed as CFPB Director

    In case you missed it, Rohit Chopra's nomination to serve as Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was confirmed Thursday, in a party-line vote of 50–48.


    HUD to propose LIBOR transition rule for FHA loans

    The Department of Housing and Urban Development has published [86 FR 54876] in this morning's Federal Register an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to address a transition away from LIBOR as an approved rate index for FHA-insured loans. HUD is considering a rule that would address a Secretary-approved replacement index for existing loans and provide for a transition date consistent with the cessation of the LIBOR index. HUD is also considering replacing the LIBOR index with the SOFR interest rate index, with a compatible spread adjustment to minimize the impact of the replacement index for legacy ARMs.

    HUD seeks public comment on the best method of making such a transition for legacy loans and new originations. HUD is requesting public comment on 14 specific questions and any other related concerns by December 6, 2021.


    Guidance to mitigate quantum computing security risks

    The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in partnership with the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), has released a roadmap to help organizations protect their data and systems and to reduce risks  related to the advancement of quantum computing technology.

    While quantum computing promises unprecedented speed and power in computing, it also poses new risks.  As this technology advances over the next decade, it is expected to break some encryption methods that are widely used to protect customer data, complete business transactions, and secure communications.  DHS’s new guidance will help organizations prepare for the transition to post-quantum cryptography by identifying, prioritizing, and protecting potentially vulnerable data, algorithms, protocols, and systems. Organizations should direct their Chief Information Officers to increase their engagement with standards developing organizations for latest developments relating to necessary algorithm and dependent protocol changes.


    EU - U.S Joint Financial Regulatory Forum statement

    The European Union and U.S. participants in the EU - U.S. Joint Financial Regulatory Forum met virtually on September 29 and 30, 2021, to exchange views on topics of mutual interest as part of their ongoing financial regulatory dialogue. The Forum underscored EU and U.S. cooperation and focused on six themes: (1) market developments and current assessment of financial stability risks, (2) sustainable finance, (3) multilateral and bilateral engagement in banking and insurance, (4) regulatory and supervisory cooperation in capital markets, (5) financial innovation, and (6) anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT).


    New message format for Fedwire Funds Service

    The Federal Reserve Board has announced that the Federal Reserve Banks will adopt the ISO 20022 message format for the Fedwire Funds Service. The change will allow for enhanced efficiency of both domestic and cross-border payments, and a richer set of payment data that may help banks and other entities comply with sanctions and anti-money laundering requirements.

    The Board also invited public comment on a revised plan for migrating the Fedwire Funds Service to the new message format. Specifically, the Board is proposing that the Reserve Banks adopt the new message format on a single day, rather than in three separate phases as previously proposed. Comments will be accepted for 90 days following publication in the Federal Register.


    Tech Sprint teams selected

    The FDIC has announced the selection of six teams to participate in a "tech sprint" designed to explore new technologies and techniques to determine how well community banks, and the banking sector as a whole, can withstand a major disruption of any type.

    • Data Society
    • Tandem
    • GRF Operational Resilience Assessment
    • PAA
    • Elastico
    • JustProtect


    OCC CRA evaluations released

    The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency on Friday released a list of Community Reinvestment Act performance evaluations that became public in September. Of the 14 evaluations listed, ten were rated Satisfactory. We congratulate the four institutions that received Outstanding ratings:


    Canada makes AML/CFT progress

    The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has issued a report that indicates Canada has taken a number of actions to strengthen its framework to combat money laundering and terrorist financing since the 2016 assessment of Canada’s AML/CFT measures.


    Webcast host charged by SEC

    The Securities and Exchange Commission has announced charges against Mark Melnick, the host of a stock trading webcast, for spreading more than 100 false rumors about public companies in order to generate illicit profits.

    According the SEC complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia on September 30, 2021, Melnick received advance notice of companies about which another scheme participant planned to spread false rumors, and then shared the companies’ names with subscribers to his online trading room. Melnick advised the subscribers that he had taken positions in the companies, while other scheme participants also spread the false rumors through real-time financial news services, financial chat rooms, and message boards. These false rumors caused the prices of the subject companies’ securities to rise temporarily. Between January 2018 and January 2020, Melnick allegedly spread and/or traded around the false rumors over 100 times, generating more than $374,000 in illicit profits. The other scheme participants also traded around the false rumors, generating significant profits.


    Vice named to FDIC advisory committee

    The FDIC has announced that Charles Vice, commissioner of the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s Department of Financial Institutions, is the newest member of the FDIC’s Advisory Committee of State Regulators (ACSR). Commissioner Vice joins 14 others who currently serve on the committee.

    A virtual meeting of the ACSR will be held at 1:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday, October 6, 2021. The ACSR will discuss and receive updates on a range of policy issues regarding the regulation of state-chartered financial institutions throughout the U.S. and its territories. The meeting’s agenda includes a discussion of state banking conditions; an update from the FDIC’s Office of Innovation (FDITECH); a dialogue regarding state and federal coordination; a report on FDIC research relating to community banking; and an update on minority and community development banking. The meeting will be webcast.


    Prohibition orders and notices issued by NCUA

    The National Credit Union Administration has announced it issued two prohibition orders and two notices of prohibition in September. The orders and notices prohibit individuals from participating in the affairs of any federally insured financial institution.

    Prohibition orders, which do not cite the actions or violations for which they were issued, were received by Johnnie Earl Harrell, Jr, a former employee of Welcome Federal Credit Union in Morrisville, North Carolina, and by Stacey Shaw, a former employee of IBEW Local Union 712 Federal Credit Union in Beaver, Pennsylvania.

    Notices of prohibition were issued to:

    • Jonathan Sanchez-Santiago, a former employee of Guardians Credit Union in West Palm Beach, Florida, who had been sentenced on charges of grand theft in connection with his employment at the credit union
    • Trevon Gross, a former employee of Helping Other People Excel Federal Credit Union in Jackson, New Jersey, who had been sentenced on charges of conspiracy to commit financial institution bribery, making false statements, obstructing the examination of a financial institution, and receiving corrupt payments as an officer of a financial institution with intent to be influenced, all in connection with his employment at the credit union.


    Rogue trader charged by SEC

    The Securities and Exchange Commission has announced it has charged Keith A. Wakefield, a former managing director and head of fixed income trading at IFS Securities, Inc., an Atlanta-based broker-dealer, with causing millions of dollars of losses through unauthorized trading in fixed income securities, and with fraudulently obtaining approximately $820,000 in fictitious commission income.

    A complaint filed by the SEC in federal district court in Chicago alleges that Wakefield engaged in unauthorized speculative trading in U.S. Treasury securities on behalf of IFS and incurred millions of dollars in losses for the firm. The complaint further alleges that Wakefield engaged in a variety of fraudulent practices to create the appearance of fictitious trading profits and disguise his unauthorized trading losses, including falsifying IFS’s books and records. Wakefield also is alleged to have fraudulently obtained approximately $820,000 in commission income from IFS based on fictitious commission payments from customers that he fabricated and recorded on IFS’s books and records. According to the complaint, Wakefield’s fraud came to an end in August 2019 when IFS was unable to honor millions of dollars in unauthorized fixed income securities trades executed by Wakefield with more than one dozen counter-parties. As a result, IFS was forced to close its business, withdraw its registration as a broker-dealer, and file for bankruptcy.


    CFPB data point report on sub-prime auto lending

    The CFPB has released its latest Data Point Report, which takes an in-depth look at how the interest rates and default risk vary across different types of subprime auto lenders.

    The report finds that some types of subprime lenders charge their borrowers significantly higher interest rates than others, and that differences in default risk are unlikely to fully explain these differences. The Data Point first finds that there are notable differences across lender types in the borrowers they serve and the types of vehicles they finance. For example, banks and credit unions that offer subprime auto loans tend to lend to borrowers with higher credit scores than finance companies and buy-here-pay-here dealerships. In light of these differences, it is perhaps not surprising that different lender types charge very different interest rates on average. For example, for subprime auto loans in the CFPB's sample, average interest rates at banks are approximately 10 percent, compared to 15 percent to 20 percent at finance companies and buy-here-pay-here dealerships.

    As expected, the report found higher default rates at lender types that charge higher interest rates. For example, it found that the likelihood of a subprime auto loan becoming at least 60 days delinquent within three years is approximately 15 percent for bank borrowers and between 25 percent and 40 percent for finance company and buy-here-pay-here borrowers.


    Reminder of mortgage servicing rule

    The CFPB has published a reminder on its blog concerning its June 30, 2021 final rule amending Regulation X's servicing requirements to assist mortgage borrowers affected by the pandemic.

    As servicers expand their operations to match the surge of forbearance exits, they should remember that not all borrowers are similarly situated. Many borrowers may be vulnerable to a greater risk of harm due to a variety of personal circumstances, including poor health, mental decline, disability, caregiving for a child or loved one, having limited English proficiency, inadequate access to technology, or being a first-time homeowner. The CFPB’s June 30 amendments became effective on August 31. The rule establishes temporary procedural safeguards to help ensure that eligible borrowers have a meaningful opportunity to be reviewed for loss mitigation before the servicer can make the first notice or filing required for foreclosure on certain mortgages.


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