Over the last two days, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”) (together, the “Agencies”) each issued a proposed rule (collectively, the “Proposed Rules”) that would codify the Agencies’ position that the interest on a loan originated on a bank, if permissible when the loan was made, will continue to be a permissible and an enforceable term of the loan following the sale, assignment, or transfer of the loan. This is known as the “valid-when-made” doctrine.Read More
On July 31, 2018, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”) announced that it will begin accepting applications from non-depository FinTech companies for special purpose national bank charters. It’s a long-awaited announcement that represents the culmination of a two year process during which the OCC sought stakeholder feedback and public comment on the issue.
Among the notable points that the OCC makes in the policy statement are the following:
- The OCC has the authority to issue special purpose charters to FinTech companies, an issue that was the subject of previously dismissed legal challenges brought by the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (“CSBS”) and the New York Department of Financial Services (“NYDFS”). In the policy statement, the OCC reiterates its position that the National Banking Act and OCC regulations (12 C.F.R. § 5.20) authorize the agency to grant charters to non-depository FinTech companies that engage in at least one of the “core banking activities” — lending, paying checks or deposit-taking — in addition to the special purpose charters for trust/fiduciary activities;
- The OCC’s decision will benefit consumers by encouraging “responsible innovation” in the banking industry. The OCC states that its decision will expand consumer choice, foster innovation in the banking sector, and “level the playing field” between regulated and non-regulated banking services institutions while ensuring FinTech companies operate safely and soundly;
- FinTech companies will be held to the same standards and supervision as their similar non-FinTech counterparts, including requirements concerning capital, liquidity, and risk management. OCC-chartered FinTech companies will also be required to maintain a contingency plan for significant financial stress scenarios. The special purpose national bank will not be required to be FDIC-insured, since they will be non-depository institutions; and
- FinTech companies may engage in any activity deemed to be permissible for a national bank.
On May 24, 2018, Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting indicated during a press call that the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”) will release guidance in July 2018 on whether it will move forward with issuing a special purpose charter to FinTech companies. According to press reports, Comptroller Otting had previously indicated that the OCC hasn’t yet made a final decision about issuance of a FinTech charter, although he had also signaled that guidance from the OCC on the matter could be released as early as June. His more recent comments during the press call extend this timetable by a month.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia recently granted the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s (“OCC”) motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (“CSBS”) challenging the OCC’s authority to issue special purpose charters to FinTech companies. According to the court, the CSBS currently lacks standing to bring the action because the OCC has not to-date issued such a charter.
The Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) recently announced that seven states, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas and Washington, have agreed to a multi-state compact (the Compact) that will standardize certain aspects of the licensing process for money services businesses (MSBs).
By Eric A. Love and Hilda Li
In remarks delivered during a recent FinTech conference at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) Acting Comptroller Keith Noreika signaled that he is open to cryptocurrency companies applying for an OCC-issued FinTech charter. According to the Acting Comptroller, part of the OCC’s role is to determine whether issuance of such a charter to cryptocurrency companies is consistent with the OCC’s “statutory obligations.” He cautioned that, “just because you get in the door, doesn’t mean you get out the door on the other side with a charter.” Video of the Acting Comptroller’s full remarks can be viewed here.
On July 19, 2017, the US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) Acting Comptroller Noreika stated that special-purpose national bank charter is a “good idea that deserves thorough analysis and careful consideration.” He thinks that, despite the pending lawsuits filed by state bank regulators to challenge, the OCC has the authority to grant national bank charters to fintech companies in appropriate circumstances.
On March 15, 2017, the U.S. OCC issued a Draft Supplement to its Licensing Manual (Supplement) to progress its proposal to roll out a special purpose national bank (SPNB) charter for fintech companies.
The Supplement outlines the process by which a fintech company may apply for a SPNB charter, and the considerations the OCC will take into account when evaluating such applications. In addition, the Supplement reiterates the OCC’s determination that the SPNB charter would be “in the public interest” because it would provide “uniform standards and supervision,” “support the dual banking system,” promote “growth, modernization, and competition” in the financial system, and encourage fintech companies to “promote financial inclusion.” It also makes clear the OCC’s determination to promote financial inclusion and to rebut criticisms that the SPNB charter would represent a light touch regulatory regime. The SPNB is not a ‘bank-lite’ charter; an “applicant that receives OCC approval for a charter becomes a national bank subject to the laws, regulations, and federal supervision that apply to all national banks.”
Comments on the Supplement are due by April 14, 2017. Because the Supplement represents a significant step forward in the OCC’s push for a fintech charter, we expect that there will be many commenters. Even before the OCC’s issuance of the Supplement, the proposed charter garnered substantial interest from key Members of Congress, state regulators, industry groups, and other stakeholders. For a more detailed analysis of the Supplement, see our Legal Insight here.
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency today issued its draft licensing manual in furtherance of its proposal to grant national bank license to fintech companies. This provides additional detail on evaluating charter applications from fintech companies that engage in the business of banking. This is an interesting riposte to the Republican letter asking the OCC to delay the fintech charter process. A link to the OCC’s press release appears here.
Investment in financial technology (fintech) companies has surpassed US$24 billion worldwide since 2010, which consequently emphasises the importance of the relationship between fintech companies and regulators as they attempt to establish a culture of compliance while not stifling innovation.
As suggested by the industry experts according to The Wall Street Journal, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) may be the best federal agency to regulate fintech companies in the US. On March 31 the OCC during a speech at Harvard University on the innovation of the fintech industry released a white paper which attempts to launch formal discussions between regulators and the industry.
For more information and analysis of the OCC white paper please see K&L Gates’ e-alert here.