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Introducing BCLP and Barry Hester

Jonathan and I discuss two major deals for our us: the formation of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) and the return or Barry Hester in this latest episode of The Bank Account.

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP is the result of the mergers of historically U.S.-based Bryan Cave LLP and historically U.K.-based Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP.  As a truly global firm with over 1,600 lawyers operating literally around the clock, we believe Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner is well positioned to serve clients around the globe.  Our blog is still available at BankBryanCave.com, but is also now available at BankBCLP.com.  We’ll figure out over time what our branding looks like.

the-bank-accountBarry Hester re-joins our financial institutions practice after serving for many years as an assistant general counsel for EverBank and TIAA FSB.  In this episode of The Bank Account, we talk with Barry about his experience with the “good guy” and “bad guy” banking compliance laws.  The “good guy” laws include the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and the Military Lending Act, while the “bad guy” laws include the Bank Secrecy Act and Anti-Money Laundering laws.  As noted in the podcast, Barry has already been busy contributing good content for our blog, with a post last week about FinCEN’s new FAQ on the Customer Due Diligence rules.

As discussed previously, we are sponsoring two teams, one of lawyers and one of bankers, for the Atlanta Ragnar Trail Run on April 13th and 14th.  Sixteen of us will be taking turns running five mile legs at the Georgia International Horse Park over a 24-hour (or so) period.  Team BSA (or Bankers Speed Ahead) will generally consist of our friendly bankers, while Team AML (or Awkwardly Moving Lawyers) will consist of our compatriots from the firm.  I expect our next podcast will relay some interesting stories from the trails.

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FinCEN Provides Relief to CDD Obligations for Existing Customers

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) published long-awaited additional Frequently Asked Questions on April 3, 2018 (the “Guidance”) relating to its Customer Due Diligence (CDD) Rule, which FinCEN promulgated pursuant to the Bank Secrecy Act (the “CDD Rule”).  This comes at a time when most covered institutions are in the final stages of implementing plans to comply with the CDD Rule by its May 11, 2018 compliance applicability date.  FinCEN previously published technical amendments to the Rule on September 29, 2017 and an initial set of FAQs on July 19, 2016.  While such Guidance does not have the weight of authority of statute or regulation, it has traditionally helped to form the basis for examination and enforcement expectations.  Here we will focus on themes in the new Guidance relating to application of the rule to existing customers.

As a reminder, the CDD Rule was originally published on May 11, 2016 after years of public hearings and comment periods.  The rule sets forth CDD as a “fifth pillar” of a BSA/AML compliance program in addition to those established by the Bank Secrecy Act itself:  system of internal controls, the appointment of a responsible officer, training, and independent testing.  CDD entails upfront due diligence and ongoing monitoring, and this rule establishes the collection of Beneficial Ownership information as a required element of CDD for legal entity customers.  In releasing the CDD Rule, FinCEN emphasized that CDD is not technically a new requirement but has always been an expected part of a BSA/AML program that results in effective suspicious activity monitoring and risk mitigation.

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D.C. Circuit Rejects FCC’s TCPA Interpretation

March 27, 2018

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On March 16, 2018, the D.C. Circuit issued its long-awaited opinion on the FCC’s 2015 Declaratory Ruling and Order (“2015 Order”) interpreting various sections of the Telephone Consumer Collection Practices Act (“TCPA”)[1]. Of note, the Court specifically rejected and set aside the FCC’s interpretation of what constitutes an Automatic Telephone Dialing System (“ATDS”). The Court also rejected the FCC’s one-call “safe harbor” for re-assigned phone numbers. At first glance, this may seem like a win for those defending TCPA lawsuits; however, the opinion may create more questions than answers.

The Court addressed (i) what types of automatic dialing equipment fall under the TCPA’s definition of ATDS; (ii) whether a dialer violates the TCPA if a number is reassigned to another person who has not given consent to be called; (iii) how a consenting party may revoke consent; and (iv) whether the consent exemption for healthcare-related calls was too narrow. The Court’s scope was limited to whether these aspects of the FCC’s 2015 Order were “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law.” 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A). The Court upheld the FCC’s “approach to revocation of consent, under which a party may revoke her consent through any reasonable means” and rejected the one-call “safe harbor” for re-assigned phone numbers as “arbitrary and capricious.”

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Senate-passed Regulatory Reform Offers Real Benefits to Depository Institutions under $10 Billion in Assets

On March 14, 2018, the Senate passed, 67-31, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, or S. 2155.  While it may lack a catchy name, its substance is of potentially great importance to community banks.

The following summary focuses on the impact of the bill for depository institutions with less than $10 billion in consolidated assets.  The bill would also have some significant impacts on larger institutions, which could, in turn, affect smaller banks… either as a result of competition or, perhaps more likely, through a re-ignition of larger bank merger and acquisition activity.  However, we thought it was useful to focus on the over 5,000 banks in the United States that have less than $10 billion in assets.

Community Bank Leverage Ratio

Section 201 of the bill requires the federal banking regulators to promulgate new regulations which would provide a “community bank leverage ratio” for depository institutions with consolidated assets of less than $10 billion.

The bill calls for the regulators to adopt a threshold for the community bank leverage ratio of between 8% and 10%.  Institutions under $10 billion in assets that meet such community bank leverage ratio will automatically be deemed to be well-capitalized.  However, the bill does provide that the regulators will retain the flexibility to determine that a depository institution (or class of depository institutions) may not qualify for the “community bank leverage ratio” test based on the institution’s risk profile.

The bill provides that the community bank leverage ratio will be calculated based on the ratio of the institution’s tangible equity capital divided by the average total consolidated assets.  For institutions meeting this community bank leverage ratio, risk-weighting analysis and compliance would become irrelevant from a capital compliance perspective.

Volcker Rule Relief

Section 203 of the bill provides an exemption from the Volcker Rule for institutions that are less than $10 billion and whose total trading assets and liabilities are not more than 5% of total consolidated assets.  The exemption provides complete relief from the Volcker Rule by exempting such depository institutions from the definition of “banking entity” for purposes of the Volcker Rule.

Accordingly, depository institutions with less than $10 billion in assets (unless they have significant trading assets and liabilities) will not be subject to either the proprietary trading or covered fund prohibitions of the Volcker Rule.

While few such institutions historically undertook proprietary trading, the relief from the compliance burdens is still a welcome one.  It will also re-open the ability depository institutions (and their holding companies) to invest in private equity funds, including fintech funds.  While such investments would still need to be confirmed to be permissible investments under the chartering authority of the institution (or done at a holding company level), these types of investments can be financially and strategically attractive.

Expansion of Small Bank Holding Company Policy Statement

Section 207 of the bill calls upon the federal banking regulators to, within 180 days of passage, raise the asset threshold under the Small Bank Holding Company Policy Statement from $1 billion to $3 billion.

Institutions qualifying for treatment under the Policy Statement are not subject to consolidated capital requirements at the holding company level; instead, regulatory capital ratios only apply at the subsidiary bank level. This rule allows small bank holding companies to use non-equity funding, such as holding company loans or subordinated debt, to finance growth.

Small bank holding companies can also consider the use of leverage to fund share repurchases and otherwise provide liquidity to shareholders to satisfy shareholder needs and remain independent. One of the biggest drivers of sales of our clients is a lack of liquidity to offer shareholders who may want to make a different investment choice. Through an increased ability to add leverage, affected companies can consider passing this increased liquidity to shareholders through share repurchases or increased dividends.

Of course, each board should consider its practical ability to deploy the additional funding generated from taking on leverage, as interest costs can drain profitability if the proceeds from the debt are not deployed in a profitable manner. However, the ability to generate the same income at the bank level with a lower capital base at the holding company level should prove favorable even without additional growth.  This expansion of the small bank holding company policy statement would significantly increase the ability of community banks to obtain significant efficiencies of scale while still providing enhanced returns to its equity holders.

Institutions engaged in significant nonbanking activities, that conduct significant off-balance sheet activities, or have a material amount of debt or equity securities outstanding that are registered with the SEC would remain ineligible for treatment under the Policy Statement, and the regulators would be able to exclude any institution for supervisory purposes.

HVCRE Modifications

Section 214 of the bill would specify that federal banking regulators may not impose higher capital standards on High Volatility Commercial Real Estate (HVCRE) exposures unless they are for acquisition, development or construction (ADC), and it clarifies what constitutes ADC status. The HVCRE ADC treatment would not apply to one-to-four-family residences, agricultural land, community development investments or existing income-producing real estate secured by a mortgage, or to any loans made prior to Jan. 1, 2015.

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CFPB Mulvaney Moments

March 6, 2018

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CFPB Mulvaney Moments

March 6, 2018

Authored by: Douglas Thompson

Enforcement of the Law, Quantitative Impact Analysis & Other Gems

Last week CFPB Acting Director Mick Mulvaney had a busy speaking calendar in Washington, D.C. and we all should be listening. He addressed the Credit Union National Association (CUNA)’s Government Affairs Conference on Tuesday, February 27th and the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Winter Meeting on Wednesday, February 28th. While there were differences in the two presentations because of the respective audiences, Mulvaney’s strategic themes were clear. You can watch the CUNA speech here and the NAAG speech here.

1. CFPB will reflect the current administration. Not surprisingly, the CFPB will be run differently under the Trump administration than it had been under the Obama administration. Whatever one’s politics, the Acting Director made abundantly clear that a new sheriff is in town. Mulvaney highlighted the time he has been spending with CFPB staff to share his priorities and to re-align departments and to focus activities under the new strategic constructs. He assured both CFPB staff and the two audiences that despite the strategy shift, he is not anticipating employee layoffs.

2. CFPB enforcement activity will enforce the law. A bit circular? Maybe. Nonsensical in light of past CFPB activity? No. Mulvaney emphasized that institutions should “know what the rules are” before being sued for allegedly failing to comply. In other words, the CFPB should not be challenging company activities which leaders did not reasonably understand violated applicable law. And related, CFPB should not push the envelope. Mulvaney rejected the notion that enforcement suits should be “creative” or that the CFPB should regulate by enforcement. Mulvaney will leave legislative tasks to the Congress. Waxing literary at CUNA, Mulvaney quoted Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America: “When justice is more certain and more mild, is at the same time more efficacious.” Mulvaney acknowledged the great power the CFPB has and opined that power should be wielded humbly and judiciously.

3. CFPB will quantitatively assess regulatory impacts. Mulvaney spoke to leveraging cost-benefit analysis at the Bureau. He will require quantitative benefits and burdens to be assessed before changes are made to regulatory requirements. He intends rule making with substantial accountability and transparency, including input from consumer groups, Attorneys General, and industry. Mulvaney hopes the CFPB will “hear” (not just listen) when engaging in these analyses, acknowledging previous criticism that the Bureau may have been “checking in the box” in that regard.

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Getting to Yes: A Conversation About Deal Certainty

the-bank-accountJonathan and I discuss deal protections and considerations – from the initial emotions of deciding to sell through deal signing in this latest episode of The Bank Account.

This episode has, in my opinion, some great information for banks looking to undertake M&A activity, from either the buyer or seller’s perspective.  But, I’m most impressed with our smooth transition from friendly banter about our upcoming Ragnar race to our substantive discussion.  (Of course the face that I’m impressed only emphasises that I shouldn’t quit my day job.)

As noted on the podcast and previously, we are sponsoring two teams, one of lawyers and one of bankers, for the Atlanta Ragnar Trail Run on April 13th and 14th.  Sixteen of us will be taking turns running five mile legs at the Georgia International Horse Park over a 24-hour (or so) period.  Today we settled on team names: Team BSA and AML.  Team BSA (or Bankers Speed Ahead) will generally consist of our friendly bankers, while Team AML (or Awkwardly Moving Lawyers) will consist of our compatriots from the firm.  We’re pretty comfortable that the names will accurately reflect the results.

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Reinvestment Opportunities Created by Tax Reform

the-bank-accountJonathan and I are back in our studio, and took this opportunity to talk a little about what we’re seeing from our clients, particularly as it comes to reinvesting their tax savings into future opportunities.  Before digging into substance, we first take a little time on the therapist’s couch to address Jonathan’s experience at the College Football National Championship Game. Only 190 days until college football is back!

With regard to tax reform savings, the go to resource for identifying the breadth of ways that banks are addressing is the American Bankers Association’s page at aba.com/EnergizingTheEconomy.  As you can see from that list, the responses really run the gamut of possibilities, including salary increases, increasing employee benefits, greater charitable contributions, new positions and products, fintech investments and addressing margin compression.

As noted on the podcast, we are sponsoring two teams, one of lawyers and one of bankers, for the Atlanta Ragnar Trail Run on April 13th and 14th.  Sixteen of us will be taking turns running five mile legs at the Georgia International Horse Park over a 24-hour (or so) period.  More details to follow, but we’re certainly expanding away from traditional marketing efforts.

We also hope you’ll consider joining us in Macon, Georgia, on April 4, 2018, for the Georgia Bankers Association’s Current Expected Credit Loss (CECL) Workshop.  We’ll be joining our friends from Mauldin & Jenkins to discuss upcoming regulatory changes and the impact of tax reform from a strategic perspective.

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Partnering with Mercer Capital to Discuss Partnering with FinTechs

In our fourth and final podcast recorded onsite at Bank Director’s Acquire or Be Acquired (AOBA) Conference, we were honored to be joined by Jay Wilson with Mercer Capital.  Jay discusses, from start to finish, how banks should explore partnering with fintech companies.  Jay is the author of Creating Strategic Value through Financial Technology that looks how traditional financial institutions and FinTech companies can boost innovation and enhance valuation in a complex regulatory environment.

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We hope you enjoy this episode of The Bank Account.  This is the fourth and final podcast episode we recorded in Phoenix.  As you can see (and hear), we stepped outside on the grounds of the beautiful Arizona Biltmore hotel and enjoyed beautiful February weather.  Unfortunately, while the surrounding area seemed completely quiet before we started recording, once we hit record, every moving van, dump truck and other sound-making person, plant, animal and equipment seemed to invade our lovely spot.  But we think the quality of the conversation with Jay (and the lovely weather and environment) more than makes up for any audio issues.  We hope you enjoy the conversation with Jay as much as we did. 

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Data Privacy and Security Handbook – 2018 Edition

February 6, 2018

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Bryan Cave Partner David Zetoony has just published the 2018 Edition of the Data Privacy and Security Handbook: A Practical Guide for In House Counsel.

Five years ago few legal departments were concerned with – let alone focused on – data privacy or security. Most of those that were aware of the terms assumed that these were issues being handled by IT, HR, or marketing departments.

The world has changed. Data privacy class action litigation has erupted and data security breaches dominate the headlines. It is now well accepted that data privacy and data security issues threaten the reputation, profitability, and, sometimes, the operational survival of organizations. It is therefore perhaps not surprising to find that in almost every survey conducted of boards and senior management, data issues rank as one of their three top concerns, if not their single greatest concern. With that backdrop, organizations increasingly look to general counsel to manage data privacy and security risks.

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2018 Banking Trends with Raymond James

In our third podcast recorded onsite at Bank Director’s Acquire or Be Acquired (AOBA) Conference, we were honored to be joined by Bill Wagner and Matt Paramore with Raymond James.  Bill and Matt shared their outlook for 2018, including the potential of North Carolina serving as a potential preview for community banking across the country and the potential renewed entry of de novo participants.

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Another topic discussed with Bill and Matt is the impact of private equity monetizing some of their investments in financial institutions over the last several years, with the ability to monetize those investments with either M&A or by secondary security sales.  The ability for private equity to exit as reasonable pricing opens significant potential for management teams that believe that continued organic growth and returns can deliver long-term results for all shareholders.  We hope you enjoy this episode of The Bank Account.

This is the third of several podcast episodes we recorded in Phoenix.  Sound quality isn’t quite as good as you may have come to expect as we’re back on an older microphone and, as you can see from the pictures, our recording “studio” was rather large.  But we think the quality of the conversation with Bill and Matt more than makes up for any audio issues.  We hope you enjoy the conversation with Bill and Matt as much as we did. 

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