The latest nail in the coffin for Operation Choke Point was added on May 22 by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) when it issued a press release announcing its resolution of a lawsuit against it by several payday lenders. Plaintiff payday lenders, echoing the generalized complaint regarding Operation Choke Point, had alleged that coordinated efforts by FDIC and US Department of Justice (DOJ) officials forced them out of the financial system by having their banking relationships terminated and, in some cases, having their bank accounts shut down.

Kathleen Kraninger, only the second Senate-confirmed director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in its almost eight-year existence, recently gave her first public remarks. The priorities Director Kraninger laid out will materially impact the CFPB’s direction and mission until the end of her term in December 2023. Director Kraninger, appointed by President Donald Trump, succeeds the first CFPB director, Richard Cordray, who was appointed by President Barack Obama.

Since taking on the role in November 2017, Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting has been relatively circumspect regarding his views on the banking industry, bank regulation, and bank regulatory reform. In testimony on June 14 before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, Comptroller Otting provided the clearest insight to date about his views on the federal banking system and the role of bank regulation.

In his testimony, Comptroller Otting first discussed risk in the banking system and the OCC’s “supervision by risk” approach, noting the following areas of heightened risk:

  • Elevated credit risk due to eased credit underwriting, increased commercial real estate concentration limits, and policy exceptions that create a higher level of concern
  • Elevated operational risk created by cybersecurity threats and third-party relationships, including risks created by consolidation in the fintech industry, which has led to a limited number of providers servicing large segments of the banking industry
  • Elevated compliance risk due to Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) requirements, the new FinCEN beneficial ownership rules, and new technologies that attempt to increase customer convenience and access to financial products and services, and the need for banks to better manage implementation of regulatory changes in consumer laws

October in Washington, DC is typically busy, marking the start of a new fiscal year for the federal government, a new term of the Supreme Court, and, this year, a lot of activity by financial regulators and Congress.

Just this week:

  • There were two hearings in the Senate Banking Committee on consumer protection.
  • The Senate confirmed Randal Quarles as the newest member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (the Federal Reserve Board) by a 65–32 vote.
  • The CFPB released its long-awaited and much discussed, including by us at All Things FinReg, final rules regulating payday loans, vehicle title loans, and certain other high-cost loans (the Payday Lending Final Rule).
  • The OCC rescinded its 2013 Guidance on Supervisory Concerns and Expectations Regarding Deposit Advance Products in response to the Payday Lending Final Rule.

As we reported last fall, New York Department of Financial Services Superintendent Maria T. Vullo stated that she was “ardently opposed” to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s (OCC’s) intention to process applications for a new financial technology (fintech) company charter. We now see just how much her counterparts in other states share that view, as the state bank regulators recently came together under the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) banner to ask the federal courts to stop the OCC’s fintech charter initiative.

In its complaint in Conference of State Bank Supervisors v. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency  filed on April 26 in the US District Court for the District of Columbia (Complaint), the CSBS has asked the court to declare that the OCC’s creation of the fintech charter is unlawful and that the OCC be enjoined from pursuing this initiative—saying, in substance, that the OCC doesn’t have the statutory authority to grant nontraditional bank charters of this nature.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s (OCC’s) recent announcement that it will receive and process applications for financial technology (fintech) charters is attracting negative attention from diverse sectors of the public arena.

On January 9, Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH and the ranking member of the US Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) wrote to Comptroller of the Currency Thomas Curry questioning whether the OCC has the authority to grant charters to fintech firms. The senators’ letter notes, among other things, that the authority granted by Congress to the OCC to charter special-purpose national banks is very specific and that the OCC’s proposed activity may exceed what is allowed under the National Bank Act.

In a wide-ranging speech on November 16 before the Exchequer Club of Washington, DC, US House of Representatives (House) Financial Services Committee (Committee) Chairman Jeb Hensarling outlined the Committee’s and House’s legislative and regulatory priorities for the next session of US Congress.

Hensarling identified a number of House financial services reform priorities for next year, including the following:

On October 7, attorneys general (all Democrats) from New York, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Vermont filed a comment letter (Comment Letter) with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) supporting proposed rules concerning Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans (Proposed Rule), to be codified at 12 C.F.R. §1041.

The Comment Letter focuses primarily on the importance of state attorneys general’s independent authority as separate sovereigns to enforce state laws that may be more stringent than federal law. The Comment Letter points to the preamble of the Proposed Rule as evidence of the CFPB’s intent to treat its proposal as a floor, not a ceiling: