Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner Banking Blog

Bank Bryan Cave

Hightower

Main Content

A Potpourri of Bank Regulatory News

On the latest episode of The Bank Account, Jonathan and I discuss a veritable hodgepodge of new regulatory pronouncements, including the CFPB’s small dollar loan rule and the OCC’s guidance on CRA ratings.  But before we got to the bank regulatory issues, Jonathan first had to seek my opinion on the new Florida Gator jerseys (pictured).  I’m actually fairly proud in my restraint.  For the handful of listeners who enjoy this banter, I encourage you to view these rejected Florida Gator uniforms.  For those that wish we’d stick with banking, I assure you my interest in discussing college football has reached another low after this weekend.

the-bank-accountWe also encourage our listeners to check out the American Bankers Association’s new podcast, the ABA Newsbytes Podcast.  While we’re happy for you to listen to our podcast over and over again, we recognize that it has diminished value starting with the third listen, and encourage you to explore other podcasts as well.

The potpourri of topics discussed include:

Read More

Regulators Propose Simplification of Capital Rules

the-bank-accountOn the latest episode of The Bank Account, “Adding HVADC to our Banking Alphabet Soup,” Jonathan and I are joined by colleague Jerry Blanchard to discuss the new capital rules proposed by the federal banking regulators on September 27, 2017.  The newly proposed regulators propose to overhaul the HVCRE regime with a “new and improved” HVADC regime, while also increasing the amount of Mortgage Servicing Assets (MSAs) and Deferred Tax Assets (DTAs) that can be included in Tier 1 Capital.

As discussed yesterday, the new HVADC rule would likely expand the scope of loans that require elevated risk-weighting, but reduce the risk-weighting from 150% to 130%.  In addition, the new rules would eliminate the need (or risk-weighting benefit) to require borrower contributed capital (and to retain any internally generated profits from the project for the life of the loan).

The proposed rule for MSAs and DTAs would require 250% risk-weighting for such assets (as contemplated in the original BASEL III rules as of January 1, 2018 and proposed to be delayed in August), but would also allow financial institutions to include MSAs and DTAs as capital, each up to 25% of Tier 1 Capital (with no separate aggregate cap amongst them).

Read More

Putting the Success in Succession

Putting the Success in Succession

September 26, 2017

Authored by: Robert Klingler

the-bank-accountOn the latest episode of The Bank Account, Jonathan and I draw from personal experiences at Bryan Cave as well as the experiences of our bank clients for a discussion about succession planning.  Succession planning is rarely a top regulatory concern, but good succession planning requires time to implement.  Accordingly, boards (and managements teams) should always be looking at (and planning for) a future where one or more executives (and/or board members) decides to retire.  With the age of the CEO often being a primary contributor to the decision to sell the bank, succession planning should be a fundamental part of the strategic planning discussion.

A few alternative titles we kicked around for this episode include:

  • Paying Millennials in Avocado Toast: The Podcast About Succession Planning
  • Succession Planning for Banks
  • The Bryan Cave Model: How Walt Moeling & Kathryn Knudson Rocked Succession Planning (and how you can too!)
  • “We” Mode: Smart Succession Planning
  • Succession Planning: Why It’s Important and How To Do It Right
  • Big Team, Little Me:  Succession Planning Tips
Read More

Why Your Board Should Stop Approving Individual Loans

In this the new era of banking, our clients are continually looking for ways to enhance efficiency and effectiveness at all levels of their organizations. This line of thinking has led to the revolution of the bank branch and the adoption of many new technologies aimed at serving customers and automating or otherwise increasing process efficiency. Perhaps most importantly, however, banks have begun to focus on optimizing their governance structures and practices, particularly at the board level.

(A print version of this post if you’d like to print or share with others is available here.)

As we discuss this topic with our clients, the conversation quickly turns to the role and function of the bank’s director loan or credit committee, which we refer to herein as the “Loan Committee.” We continue to believe that Loan Committees should move away from the practice of making underwriting decisions on individual credits absent a specific legal requirement, and here we set forth the position that this change should be made in order to enhance Board effectiveness, not just to avoid potential liability.

Ensuring Board Effectiveness

Whenever we advise clients with regard to governance, our fundamental approach is to determine whether a given course of action helps or hinders the Board’s ability to carry out its core functions. Defining the core functions of a Board can be a difficult task. Fortunately, the staff of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System recently outlined its view of the core functions of a bank Board. We agree with the Federal Reserve’s outline of these functions as set forth in its proposed guidance regarding Board Effectiveness applicable to large banks, which was based on a study of the practices of high-performing boards. Based on our experiences, many of the concepts expressed in that proposed guidance constitute board best practices for banks of any asset size. The proposed guidance indicates that a board should:

  • set clear, aligned, and consistent direction;
  • actively manage information flow and board discussions;
  • hold senior management accountable;
  • support the independence and stature of independent risk management and internal audit; and
  • maintain a capable board composition and governance structure.

We believe that an evaluation of the board’s oversight role relative to the credit function is a necessary part of the proper, ongoing evaluation of a bank’s governance structure. As it conducts this self-analysis, a board should evaluate whether the practice of underwriting and making credit decisions on a credit-by-credit basis supports its pursuit of the first four functions. We believe that it likely does not.

Considering Individual Credit Decisions May Hinder the Committee’s Ability to Set Overall Direction for the Credit Function.

We have observed time and time again Loan Committee discussions diving “into the weeds” and, in our experience, once they are there they tend to stay there. In most Loan Committee meetings, the presenting officer directs the committee’s attention to an individual credit package and discusses the merits and challenges related to the proposal. Committee members then typically ask detailed questions about the particular financial metrics, borrower, or the intended project, assuming that any discussion occurs at all prior to taking a vote.

While it may sometimes be healthy to quiz officers on their understanding of a credit package, focusing on this level of detail may deprive the Loan Committee of the ability to focus on setting direction for the bank’s overall loan portfolio. In fact, in many of the discussions of individual credits, detailed questions about the individual loan package may in fact distract from the strategic and policy questions that really should be asked at the board level, such as “What is the market able to absorb with regard to projects of this type?” and “What is our overall exposure to this segment of our market?”

Read More

Frenemies: Gaining Efficiency Through Shared Services

the-bank-accountBryan Cave colleagues Ken Achenbach and Sean Christy join Jonathan and me on this episode of The Bank Account to examine the ability of banks to gain efficiency through shared services.  Throughout the business environment, business are looking to out source all non-core competencies.  Ken and Sean explore the opportunity for banks to similarly explore the opportunity for banks to join forces to purchase outsourced services and invest in technology platforms together. By working together, banks can leverage buying power and share the burden associated with evaluating their vendor options.

You can follow most of us on Twitter.  Jonathan is @HightowerBanks, I’m @RobertKlingler, and Sean is @SeanChristy.  Following Ken on Twitter is difficult, as he has, so far, refused to access that part of the internet.  Our producer, Sam Katz, is @SamathaJill1.

Note:  This episode was recorded before the University of Florida announced it was cancelling this weekend’s football game against Northern Colorado due to Hurricane Irma.  The Gators drought in offensive touchdowns will therefore continue at least another week.  We hope everyone stays safe.

Read More

The Sanity of Bank Directors

The Sanity of Bank Directors

September 1, 2017

Authored by: Robert Klingler

the-bank-accountOn the latest episode of The Bank Account, Jonathan and I address two items of significant interest in our office: (a) a recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece on the sanity of bank directors, and (b) the start the of college football season (not necessarily in that order).

When starting the podcast, we expected the podcast would offer listeners an opportunity to hear the conversations we have around the office on a wide variety of topics.

Today, that includes a topic that represents a significant part of our fall conversations, college football, with a particular focus on the SEC.  As a Georgia Bulldog, Jonathan brings his bizarre view of the world, while as a Florida Gator, I correct him (or at least that’s how I see it, and I write the blog posts).  If you want to participate in the conversation, please do not hesitate to reach out to either of us (Jonathan.Hightower@bryancave.com and @HightowerBanks or Robert.Klingler@bryancave.com and @RobertKlingler).

Following the football discussion, we get down to the real business of the day, the insanity of a recent Wall Street Journal Opinion piece.  On August 28th, the Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece by Thomas Vartanian titled Why Would Anyone Sane be a Bank Director?  Jonathan’s response, Why Sane People Serve as Bank Directors, is available here.  Jonathan and I walk through aspects of Vartanian’s analysis that we agree with… as well as the many portions that we strongly disagree with.  We also address a few other items related to the analysis of what should be involved in director’s roles on bank boards and the FDIC’s approach in litigation.

Read More

Counterpoint: Why Sane People Serve as Bank Directors

Bank directors have played a crucial role in the turnaround of the banking industry, an accomplishment that deserves recognition in light of the fact that it has been done under tremendous regulatory burden and tepid economic growth.  Given that, why do we continue to question why the country’s most respected business people would be willing to serve as bank directors?  Respected attorney and industry commentator Thomas Vartanian recently asked in an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal, “Why would anyone sane be a bank director?”  Well, sane people are serving as bank directors every day, and in doing so they are benefiting the economy without exposing themselves to undue risk.

(A print version of this post if you’d like to print or share with others is available here.)

The regulatory environment for bank directors is clearly improving. The Federal Reserve’s recent proposal to reassess the way in which it interacts with boards is appropriate if overdue, and the other banking agencies should follow the path that the Federal Reserve has set forth.  We also witnessed the FDIC acting very aggressively in pursuing lawsuits against directors of failed banks in the wake of the financial crisis.  However, suggesting that the FDIC relax its standards for pursuing cases against bank directors is not only unrealistic, it misses the greater point for the industry in that it needs to continue to refine its governance practices in order to provide for better decision-making by bank directors and to enhance protections from liability for individual directors.

In order to fully understand the point of this position, it is important to clear up a couple of commonly-held misconceptions.  First, when the FDIC sues a bank director after a bank failure, it does so for the benefit of the Deposit Insurance Fund, which is essentially an insurance cooperative for the banking industry.  As a result, the FDIC should be viewed as a purely economic actor, no different from any other plaintiff’s firm in the business of suing corporate directors.  Lawsuits by FDIC should not be given any higher profile or greater credibility than any number of other suits against corporate directors that inevitability occur during market downturns.  There should be no additional stigma, and certainly no additional fear, with regard to a claim by the FDIC on the basis that it is “the government.”

Read More

HVCRE Lending: An Area of Regulatory Examination Focus

the-bank-account

Jonathan and I are joined by our colleague, Jerry Blanchard, to discuss High Volatility Commercial Real Estate (HVCRE) Loans on the latest episode of The Bank Account.

HVCRE Loans are one of the areas of focus on regulatory exams, and we’re seeing increased attention to not only ensuring that a bank’s reported HVCRE loans are correct, but also that the bank has sufficient internal controls in place to monitor and track HVCRE lending.

Formal regulatory guidance on HVCRE lending is still rare, as the various regulatory agencies struggle to find consensus in an area that is fraught with technicalities and details.  Our colleague, Jerry Blanchard, has assisted numerous banks in evaluating overall HVCRE programs as well the application of the HVCRE requirements to countless loans.  In addition, he’s written extensively on the topic, including:

You can always follow us on Twitter.  Jonathan is @HightowerBanks, I’m @RobertKlingler, and Jerry is @Blanchard_Jerry.  Our producer, Sam Katz, is @SamathaJill1, and is not responsible for my inability to read simple copy at the end of this episode.

Read More

Regulators Tackle Board Effectiveness and Overdrafts

the-bank-account

On the latest episode of The Bank Account, Jonathan and Ken Achenbach discussed the Federal Reserve’s proposed supervisory expectations for boards of directors.

Before digging into the Federal Reserve’s proposed guidance, Jonathan and Ken first discussed the CFPB’s statistical analysis of frequent overdrafters.  As noted in the CFPB’s analysis, “very frequent overdrafters account for about five percent of all accounts at the study banks but paid over 63 percent of all overdraft and NSF fees.”  They also touched on the CFPB’s prototype model forms for overdrafts.   As might be expected from the CFPB, the sample forms do a good job of highlighting the economic consequences of utilizing overdrafts, but not mention the potentially significant benefits (tangible and psychological) that can be provided by allowing such payments to proceed.

As noted by Jonathan and Ken, the Federal Reserve’s proposed supervisory guidance identifying expectations for boards of directors of banking holding companies would only apply to institutions with consolidated assets of $50 billion or more.  However, we believe the guidance is appropriate for all bank directors to look at, particularly as it draws on the Federal Reserve’s experience with approaches that improve bank governance.

Per the Federal Reserve guidance, effective boards are those which:

  1. set clear, aligned, and consistent direction regarding the firm’s strategy and risk tolerance;
  2. actively manage information flow and board discussions;
  3. hold senior management accountable;
  4. support he independence and stature of independent risk management (including compliance) and internal audit; and
  5. maintain a capable board composition and governance structure.

We believe this Federal Reserve guidance is consistent with our advice that boards need to get out of the weeds and focus on the big picture, a topic we have addressed on earlier podcasts as well.

Read More

Dealing with an Unsolicited Offer

On the latest episode of The Bank Account, in preparation #SharkWeek, Jonathan and I discuss unsolicited offers and some of the approaches for bank boards to deal with them.  Topics covered include:

  • Senator Warren’s declaration that OCC Acting Comptroller Keith Noreika is a “swamp thing;”
  • unsolicited versus hostile approaches;
  • approaches to sell a bank, including full auctions, limited auctions, and negotiated transactions;
  • the need to have a current strategic plan and an understanding of the financial impact of such plan;
  • the-bank-accountthe value of having a Policy for Corporate Change to ensure discussions about offers to acquire the bank find their way to the boardroom for discussion by the full board;
  • dealing with an unsolicited offer in the middle of a negotiated transaction; and
  • the value of having experienced advisors, like Bryan Cave LLP, at your side as you address these issues.

You can also always follow us on Twitter.

Jonathan is @HightowerBanks and I’m @RobertKlingler.  Our producer, Sam Katz, is @SamathaJill1.

Read More
The attorneys of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner make this site available to you only for the educational purposes of imparting general information and a general understanding of the law. This site does not offer specific legal advice. Your use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Bryan Cave LLP or any of its attorneys. Do not use this site as a substitute for specific legal advice from a licensed attorney. Much of the information on this site is based upon preliminary discussions in the absence of definitive advice or policy statements and therefore may change as soon as more definitive advice is available. Please review our full disclaimer.