Industry Developments

Prohibition on Dealing or Investing in Industrial or Commercial Metals

 

On January 3, 2017, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (the “OCC“) finalized a rule that prohibits national banks and federal savings associations from dealing or investing in industrial or commercial metals. An “industrial or commercial metal” is “a metal (or alloy), including copper, in a form primarily suited to industrial or commercial use.” Examples of metals and alloys considered to be “industrial or commercial metals” include copper cathodes, aluminum T-bars and gold jewelry. The rule becomes effective on April 1, 2017, and includes a divestiture period requiring national banks and federal savings associations to dispose of industrial or commercial metals acquired through dealing or investing activities “as soon as practicable, but not later than one year from the effective date of the regulation.” However, the OCC may grant up to four separate one-year extensions of this period for national banks or federal savings associations making a good faith effort to divest of the industrial or commercial metals and where the banks’ or savings associations’ retention of these metals is not inconsistent with their safe and sound operation. Press Release. Rule.

First Department Affirms Partial Dismissal of RMBS Repurchase Claims

 

On December 29, 2016, the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, in a 4‑1 decision, affirmed a 2015 New York Supreme Court order dismissing certain claims in an RMBS action brought by Trustee U.S. Bank National Association, solely in its capacity as Trustee of the J.P. Morgan Alternative Loan Trust 2007-A2 (the “Trustee“) against originator Greenpoint Mortgage Funding (“Greenpoint“). On May 31, 2013, the last day before the statute of limitations expired, the Trustee filed suit alleging that Greenpoint had breached certain representations and warranties with respect to mortgage loans that it originated. The Trustee, however, did not send out any breach notices until after it filed its action, and none of the breach notices provided for a 60‑day cure period, as required under the applicable Mortgage Loan Sale Agreement. The First Department affirmed the Supreme Court’s order dismissing the Trustee’s claims that Greenpoint was notified of breaching mortgages, but failed to cure. The panel held that the breach notices and the 60‑day cure period were conditions precedent to filing the lawsuit, and the breach notices could not “relate back because the inherent nature of a condition precedent to bringing suit is that it actually precedes the action.” The First Department, however, also affirmed the Supreme Court’s denial of Greenpoint’s motion to dismiss to the extent that the Trustee’s breach of contract claims were predicated on allegations of Greenpoint’s independent discovery of breaches. The First Department held that such allegations do not require breach notices to be sent before an action is commenced. The panel also held that allegations that Greenpoint created and had full access to the loan files, and therefore knew or should have known of the breaches, were sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss. Order.

Annual Asset-Size Threshold Adjustments for Small and Intermediate Small Banks

 

On December 29, 2016, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Reserve System and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation amended their Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) regulations to adjust the asset-size thresholds used to define “small bank” or “small savings association” and “intermediate small bank” or “intermediate small savings association.” The adjustment is based on an annual percentage change in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers. As a result of the 0.84 percent increase for the period ending in November 2016, “small bank” or “small savings association” means “an institution that, as of December 31, 2016, of either of the prior two calendar years, had assets of less than $1.226 billion,” and “intermediate small bank” or “intermediate small savings association” means “a small institution with assets of at least $307 million as of December 31 of both of the prior two calendar years and less than $1.226 billion as of December 31, 2016, of either of the prior two calendar years.” Press Release. Rule.

New York Department of Financial Services Issues Updated Proposed Cybersecurity Regulation

 

On December 28, 2016, the New York State Department of Financial Services (“DFS“) announced that it has updated its proposed first‑in‑the‑nation cybersecurity regulation. The proposed regulation, which will be effective March 1, 2017, will require banks, insurance companies and other financial services institutions regulated by DFS to adopt a cybersecurity program by assessing its specific risk profile and designing a program to address these risks accordingly.

According to the DFS, “This updated proposal allows an appropriate period of time for regulated entities to review the rule before it becomes final and make certain that their systems can effectively and efficiently meet the risks associated with cyber threats.”

Among the changes made, the definition of “Exemptions” has been expanded to provide:

  • that “Covered Entities” that have less than the specified number of employees, gross annual revenue or year‑end total assets shall be exempt from the requirements of enumerated sections;
  • an exemption for an employee, agent, representative or designee of a Covered Entity, who is itself a Covered Entity;
  • an exemption from enumerated sections for a Covered Entity that does not directly or indirectly operate, maintain, utilize or control any “Information Systems” and that does not, and is not required to, directly or indirectly control, own, access, generate, receive or possess “Nonpublic Information“;
  • a requirement that Covered Entities that qualify for an exemption file a “Notice of Exemption”; and that a Covered Entity that ceases to qualify for an exemption must comply with all applicable requirements of the proposed rule.

The updated proposed regulation will be finalized following a 30-day notice and public comment period. Press Release. DFS Assessment of Public Comments. DFS Summary. Proposed Regulation (As Revised).

Deutsche Bank Settles DOJ RMBS Claims for $7.2 Billion

 

On December 23, 2016, Deutsche Bank AG (“Deutsche Bank“) announced that it had reached a settlement in principle with the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ“) to resolve possible civil claims arising from Deutsche Bank’s issuance and underwriting of RMBS in the years leading up to the financial crisis. The $7.2 billion settlement includes a $3.1 billion civil penalty, with an additional $4.1 billion paid in the form of consumer relief (including loan modifications and other types of borrower assistance).

Rating Agency Developments

On December 14, 2016, Fitch published its rating criteria for debt issued by airports. Report.

On December 12, 2016, DBRS released its methodology for rating project finance. Report.

On December 12, 2016, DBRS released its methodology for rating solar power projects. Report.

On December 12, 2016, DBRS released its methodology for rating wind power projects. Report.

On December 12, 2016, DBRS released its methodology for rating companies in the pipeline and the diversified energy industry. Report.

On December 12, 2016, DBRS released its preferred share and hybrid security criteria for corporate issuers. Report.

On December 8, 2016, Fitch updated its EMEA RMBS rating criteria with an addendum for analyzing securities backed by Belgian residential mortgage loans. Report.

On December 8, 2016, Fitch updated its EMEA RMBS rating criteria with an addendum for analyzing securities backed by French residential mortgage loans. Report.

On December 8, 2016, DBRS released its surveillance methodology for CMBS transactions. Report.

FHFA Issues Final Rule on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Duty to Serve Underserved Markets

On December 13, 2016, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) issued a final rule implementing the Duty to Serve provisions mandated by the Federal Housing Enterprises Financial Safety and Soundness Act of 1992, as amended by the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA).  The statute established a duty for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to serve three underserved markets: manufactured housing, affordable housing preservation and rural housing.  The intent of the provisions is to increase the liquidity of mortgage investments and improve distribution of investment capital available for mortgage financing for very low-, low- and moderate-income families in the manufactured housing, affordable housing preservation and rural housing markets. Press Release. Final Rule.

 

Federal Banking Agencies Finalize an 18-Month Examination Cycle for Small Banking Institutions

On December 12, 2016, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Federal Reserve Board and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) finalized rules that generally allow well-capitalized and well-managed banks and savings associations with less than $1 billion in total assets to benefit from an 18-month examination cycle rather than a 12-month cycle.  Prior to the adoption of the interim final rules, only firms with total assets of less than $500 million were eligible to benefit from the extended 18-month cycle.  The final rules are meant, among other things, to reduce regulatory compliance costs for smaller institutions. Press Release. Final Rule.

CTFC Approves Re-Proposal of Position Limits Regulation

 

On December 5, 2016, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC“) unanimously approved to re‑propose rules that implement limits on speculative futures and swap positions. Separately, the CFTC also approved final rules on aggregation of positions, a component of the existing position limits framework. The comment period ends 60 days after publication of the re-proposal in the Federal Register. Release.

OCC to Move Forward With Considering Fintech Charter Applications

 

On December 2, 2016, Comptroller of the Currency Thomas J. Curry announced that the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC“) would move forward with considering applications from fintech companies that conduct at least one of three core banking activities (i.e., receiving deposits, paying checks or lending money) to become special purpose national banks. Fintech companies will have the option to seek a charter, and the OCC will evaluate applicants to ensure they have a reasonable chance of success, appropriate risk management, effective consumer protection and strong capital and liquidity.

The OCC simultaneously published a paper discussing the issues and conditions that the agency will consider in granting special purpose national bank charters. Comments to the paper may be submitted through January 15, 2017. For further discussion relating to the announcement, please see “National Bank Charters for Fintech Companies.” Orrick Alert. Release. White Paper.