Posts filed under ‘Compliance’
Is it a violation of federal law to deny someone a student loan based on their status as a Dreamer? That is the central question posed by a class action lawsuit brought byCalifornia college students who claim that Wells Fargo denied them student loans in violation of both, Federal and California Law. The lawsuit has the potential of putting financial institutions front- and- center in the debate over the protections the country affords to immigrants.
In June 2012, President Obama’s Department of Homeland Security announced that it would no longer deport young immigrants who had lived in this country for most of their lives, but whose parents were here illegally, and who themselves had never obtained legal status. Under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), eligible individuals receive a renewable two year authorization granted by the federal government to stay in the country. Eligible individuals receive a work permit and obtain employment authorization documentation, which entitles them to legally look for work.
The lawsuit was brought by Mitzie Perez, she claims that in August of 2016 she applied for a student loan online. While completing the application she indicated that she was neither a US citizen or a permanent resident. She was immediately denied the loan. Curious as to why she was denied, when she completed the same application a second time, she indicated she was a permanent resident, she was told that “based on the citizenship status you provided, a US Citizen Co-signer will be required for this application”. Should would be able to obtain a co-signer.
She claims the bank violated 42USCA Section 1981. This law provides that “All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens…” She also argues that because of the documentation she is able to provide the bank under DACA, Wells Fargo can provide her a loan without violating the Customer Identification Procedure requirements of the Bank Secrecy Act.
Leaving aside the emotional pull of the argument, the responsibility of financial institutions towards persons who are not permanent legal aliens is ambiguous. Regulation B, which implements the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, makes it illegal to discriminate against an applicant on a prohibited bases, including the applicants’ national origin. Here is where it gets tricky; the commentary accompanying this prohibition explains that while “A creditor may not refuse to grant credit because an applicant comes from a particular country.” A financial institution “may take the applicant’s immigration status into account. A creditor may also take into account any applicable law, regulation, or executive order restricting dealings with citizens (or the government) of a particular country or imposing limitations regarding credit extended for their use.” (12 C.F.R. § Pt. 1002, Supp. I).
Wells Fargo is in a tough spot. On the one hand, I agree with those who argue that there is something distinctly un-American about throwing DACA individuals out of the country. Many of them have spent almost their entire lives growing up as Americans. That being said, the law is the law and just as President Obama extended legal protections with an Executive order in 2012, President Trump could eliminate their legal status with the stroke of a pen. Financial institutions not only have the right but the legal obligation to consider this possibility when deciding whether or not to extend loans to students like Ms. Perez. What decisions they should make based on this information is a much tougher call. This case underscores why congress needs to craft common sense immigration reform.
This article in today’s American Banker tipped me off to an announcement by Facebook that it is offering members the ability to use and register physical tokens as an added feature to guard against account hacking. Although I am proudly not one of the estimated 1 billion users out there who delude themselves into thinking that they have scores of friends who want updates on little Johnny’s latest achievements and a picture of the gourmet meal that they are making for dinner, I have to concede that the American Banker has a point, when it quotes banking officials who suggest that Facebook’s announcement will probably have members asking their financial institutions to offer them the same type of protection.
A press release posted on Facebook yesterday explains that “Starting today, you can register a physical security key to your account so that the next time you log in after enabling login approvals, you’ll simply tap a small hardware device that goes in the USB drive of your computer. Security keys can be purchased through companies like Yubico, and the keys support the open Universal 2nd Factor (U2F) standard hosted by the FIDO Alliance.”
What confuses me a tad about the announcement is that it is only going to be beneficial for us old-timers who still do our banking online with a laptop or desktop that has a USB port. Even though Facebook started as a means for kids at Harvard to know where the next party was going to be, fifty percent of Facebook users are over the age of 40, which explains why I know so much more about my friends and neighbors than I really need to. My wife is a Facebook fan.
McWatters Named Acting NCUA Chairman
The inimitable J. Mark McWatters completed his unlikely lies from board gadfly to leader of the NCUA yesterday when he was named Acting Chairman of the NCUA Board, by President Donald Trump. Here are a few quick thoughts.
This is good news for credit unions, leaving aside his seemingly compulsive need to reference the fact that he is a lawyer at least once every five minutes, McWatters’ legal acumen has been a welcomed change for the industry.
- He has advocated for taking a fresh look at issues ranging from MBL’s to Field of Membership flexibility.
- It may have been totally by accident, but NCUA has actually positioned itself well ahead of the Trump wave by already having McWatters on the Board. McWatters joined by Metzger, have been advocating for substantial regulatory relief for almost two years now. As a spokesman for the Board McWatters can only help build bridges to Congressional Republicans.
- Under NCUA’s enabling statue lets the President pick the Chairman of the NCUA Board: What a concept. This commonsense measure provides another example of why CFPB supporters are so wrong in their dogmatic instance that the bureau can only function with a single benign dictator.
On that note, enjoy your weekend without football. I will have to remember what I used to do on Sunday afternoons.
On Tuesday, a Federal District Court in Virginia dismissed a lawsuit brought with much righteous indignation and fanfare by the Independent Bankers Association. (Indep. Cmty. Bankers of Am. v. Nat’l Credit Union Admin., No. 1:16CV1141 (JCC/TCB), 2017 WL 346136, (E.D. Va. Jan. 24, 2017). They worked themselves into a foam-mouthed frenzy following the promulgation of regulations by NCUA, giving credit unions greater flexibility to make MBL loans without first seeking waivers from the agency. Although the case was dismissed on technical grounds, make no mistake about it, if this was a boxing match it would have been a TKO. This was about as complete a victory as the NCUA could have gotten in the first round of what could be extensive litigation ultimately involving not only NCUA’s authority to promulgate changes to its MBL regulations, but also its authority to promulgate changes to field of membership requirements.
In 2003, NCUA amended its regulations. It allowed credit unions to purchase nonmember loan participations without counting such participations against the MBL cap, provided that they get NCUA’s approval to do so. In its 2016 revisions to the MBL rules, NCUA decided that credit unions no longer have to seek prior approval before acquiring nonmember participation interests. The clux of the IBA’s complaint was that credit unions never should have been given the authority with or without NCUA’s approval. The court ruled that the bankers could have brought their complaint more than a decade ago, and their decision not to do so meant that the six year statute of limitations to bring such action had expired long ago.
But wait there is more! In a typical lawsuit it is fairly easy to show that a plaintiff has suffered an injury. For example, if I was hit by a car this morning on my way to work no one would question my right to sue the driver if he was speeding. But in the land of Association litigation standing is a crucial issue. Too broad a view of what constitutes harm makes it easier for Associations like the IBA to sue over credit union laws and regulations. So, I was pleasantly surprised that the judge also concluded that the bankers had not shown that they were in fact harmed by NCUA’s MBL changes. This passage is worth quoting at length because it could be useful in challenging banker’s standings in subsequent lawsuits.
It is not clear at this point that Defendant’s 2016 regulation will result in increased competition against Plaintiff’s member banks. Credit unions were able to compete with banks in the commercial loan arena before the 2016 Rule. Indeed, Plaintiff represents that they have done so vigorously. The 2016 Rule on its face does not permit additional competition. All it does is dispense with the requirement that, after taking on a certain amount of member business loans, a credit union obtain permission to purchase an additional interest in a nonmember business loan.
Finally, the court noted that even if it was to rule on the merits of the case, the bankers would still loose. NCUA did not abuse its discretion in amending its MBL regulations but was instead acting within its authority to interoperate an ambiguous statue.
In yesterday’s blog, I provided an overview of NCUA’s Supplemental Capital ANPR addressing a potential Supplemental Capital framework. I know requests for feedback are white noise to many of you, who actually have more immediate concerns to worry about, like running a credit union. But there are some big issues tied in with this proposal that affect the industry as a whole and you should take the time to weigh in.
Just how big are the issues? Well, this is the first ANPR I have ever seen that raises the prospect of credit unions putting their tax exempt status at risk. The ANPR notes that “With respect to federal credit unions, the Board is aware that part of the basis for the credit union tax exemption was that Congress recognized most credit unions could not access the capital markets to raise Capital.” It further points out in a footnote that Mutual Savings Banks and Savings and Loan Associations were stripped of their tax exempt status in part because they “had evolved from mutual organizations to ones that operated in a similar matter to banks.”
To me, the core issue is how much credit unions with $100 million or more in assets need Supplemental Capital both to comply with their enhanced risk based capital obligations and continue to grow to meet member needs. The simple truth is that the Basel iii framework, for which NCUA’s Risk Based Capital was the inspiration, was designed with large banks in mind. These institutions can satisfy capital requirements by issuing stock. Credit Unions have no such option. Supplemental Capital would give them greater flexibility to meet these new demands.
And let’s not forget that the credit unions that are most likely to directly benefit from Supplemental Capital are the same ones large enough to bring down the entire industry. Supplemental Capital could provide an added buffer against future financial meltdowns.
Ultimately, I believe that the industry needs to have Broad Based Supplemental Capital as an option available for all credit unions that choose to use it. But seeing legislation like this pass any time soon is about as likely as seeing President Trump’s spokesman, Sean Spicer leading the Washington Press Corp. in a yoga class. (That man really has to take a chill pill.) Supplemental Capital regulations could show Congress how additional capital flexibility helps credit unions grow to meet member needs and enhances the safety and soundness of the industry.
On that note, Namaste
Within hours of the Trump Administration taking office on Friday, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) issued a letter suspending a previous decision to reduce the Mortgage Insurance Premium rates (MIP) for homebuyers with FHA mortgages. The original mortgage letter was issued January 9th and was going to apply to mortgages closing on or after January 27, 2017.
The FHA provides insurance against default for qualified borrowers. Borrowers who qualify contribute to the insurance by paying Mortgage Insurance Premiums. On January 9th the FHA announced that it was substantially reducing its premium rates. For example, a mortgage loan of less than $625,500 with a LTV equal to or greater than 95% would have its annual MIP reduced from 100 basis points to 55 basis points. These reductions came after several years of rising concerns that the FHA would need a government bailout.
Although the reduction was suspended prior to any mortgages being issued, the decision may impact disclosures that were made based on the January 9, 2017 letter. If the new requirements impact the accuracy of your required disclosures that you made based on the January 9th changes, to me this qualifies as a changed circumstance, for which you can reissue disclosures without a penalty. The decision to put insurance reductions on hold constitutes new information based on an event that is outside of the control of either the lender or the borrower. Take a look for yourself. While I of course always strive to be accurate, nothing I say here should be considered a substitute for seeking legal advice.
NCUA Details Extended Exam Cycle
In case you missed it, recently NCUA released a letter to credit unions detailing changes to its examination cycle for both federal and federally insured credit unions.
There hasn’t been much good news for state charters recently, let me tell you some. Unless your credit union meets any one of the following criteria you will receive an NCUA evaluation not less than every five years.
- Assets greater than $1 billion;
- Composite NCUA CAMEL code 4 or 5 with assets greater than $50 million; or
- Composite NCUA CAMEL code 3 with assets greater than $250 million
In addition, a working group is being formed to consider ways to further improve the examination process as it relates to state chartered credit unions. Any steps designed to decrease NCUA’s oversight of state charters are welcomed. As readers of this blog will know, yours truly has complained that NCUA has moved so aggressively to oversee the activities of these institutions that it has diminished the value of a state charter.
As for federal credit unions, they will be eligible for extended exam cycles that begin 14 to -20 months after the prior exam completion date. To be eligible for the extended cycle, a federal credit union must have:
- Assets less than $1 billion;
- CAMEL code 1 or 2, in both the composite rating and the management component rating;
- “Well capitalized” under prompt corrective action (PCA) regulations;
- No outstanding documents of resolution (DOR) items related to significant recordkeeping deficiencies; and
- Not operating under a formal or informal enforcement or administrative order, such as a cease and desist order (C&D), letter of understanding and agreement (LUA), preliminary warning letter (PWL), or a PCA directive
New Banking Chairs named
A new session triggers a game of political musical chairs as members jockey to take the helm of key committees. This year is no exception. There are two new faces that credit unions in New York State will be working with more closely over the next two years..
Senator Jessie Hamilton, the newest member of the IDC, representing the 20th Senate District in NYC, has taken the helm of the Senate Banks Committee. He replaces fellow IDC member, Senator Diane Savino, who is moving on be Vice-Chair of the powerful Senate Finance and Code Committees. Savino has been a good friend to credit unions and we wish her the best in her new assignments.
Over on the assembly side, Kenneth P. Zebrowski, was named Chair of the Banks Committee, replacing retired Assemblywomen, Annette Robinson. Zembrowski becomes the first Chairman of the Assembly Banks Committee from outside of the five boroughs in at least twenty years.
Senator Sessions: I’ll enforce Pot Laws
At his senate confirmation to be the US Attorney General, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions strongly suggested that he would take a stronger stand against states with legal marijuana businesses then has the current justice department. According to this article , when Sessions was asked if he would continue the Obama Administration’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy (my characterization) on illegal drugs, the Senator responded “It’s not so much the attorney general’s job to decide what laws to enforce. We should do our job and enforce laws as effectively as we’re able,” said Sessions, adding that “Congress was entitled to change federal law if it so desired.”
Enjoy your day!
I have New York on my mind this morning, and it is not just because I am suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after watching the second half of the yesterday’s Packers-Giants game. Is the second half over yet?
Instead, I am thinking about New York because there is a lot going on both regulatory and legislatively that financial institutions should be keeping an eye on.
Time to fill out your exemption claim forms
Once again, with a huge assist from Joan Lannon, in the Associations, compliance department, here is a link to the form that your credit union will to claim an exemption from the requirement to maintain abandon property. Remember you have until February 28, 2017 to apply for the exemption, but it makes no sense to wait.
Elder Abuse Legislation to be a top priority for Cuomo
Today marks the unofficial start of the 2016-2017 legislative sessions. This year the governor is foregoing the tradition of speaking before a joint legislative session in Albany. Instead, he is unveiling his State of the State priorities in regional speeches, the first of which is today. On Friday, he announced he would be proposing comprehensive elder abuse legislation. The specifics have yet to be released, but according to the press release, the governor’s plan would include an Elder Abuse certification program for banks as well as measures to empower banks to place holds on “potentially fraudulent transactions”. Incidentally, I don’t know if the exclusive reference in the press release to banks is an oversight or an indication that credit unions won’t be covered by these measures. I strongly suspect that it is the former.
Rocky start to Legislative Session
A hallmark of the Cuomo administration has been an end to New York’s dysfunctional budget process; most importantly every budget proposed by the governor has been enacted pretty much on time. This run will be put to a test this year. As these legislative preview articles indicate, both the governor and legislature are angry at the lack of progress in negations held late last year and there isn’t quite as much money to spend as there used to be. This could be a very interesting session.
Expressions Hair Design to be argued tomorrow
Expressions Hair Design v. Schneiderman, a case challenging New York’s ban on credit card surcharges above an items headline price, is to be argued before the Supreme Court tomorrow. Both CUNA and NYCUA wrote amicus briefs in support of New York’s law. There will be no blog tomorrow, as yours truly and Michael Lieberman will be headed to D.C to watch the arguments first hand.
As for all you depressed Giant fans, remember, we still have the Knicks. WOW it’s going to be a long winter. Maybe I will start getting ready for fantasy baseball.