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A Year in Comment Letters

June 1, 2021–May 31, 2022

This year, attorneys Heather MacKinnon, Scott Birrenkott, and President/CEO Rose Oswald Poels submitted 16 comment letters in response to requests for comment on rulemaking affecting the banking industry.

Through this process, the WBA Legal Team was able to advocate on behalf of all WBA members for the betterment of the banking industry. From digital assets to examinations and fees, comment letters are a great opportunity for members of the banking industry to inform agencies about the impact of rulemaking and provide examples.

As part of the rulemaking process within the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), all agencies are required to allow the public an opportunity to comment on proposed rules for a prescribed period (minimally 30 days). All WBA members are encouraged to share their comments with federal and state agencies as requested. Information regarding comment letters, or WBA-created letter templates — when available — are typically shared with the membership in the Wisconsin Banker Daily. Additional rulemaking developments at the federal level are compiled in the monthly WBA Compliance Journal.

Once the public has commented, each agency must determine how to proceed given the feedback received. This year, the WBA Legal Team addressed five federal agencies and further helped inform said agencies on the impact of their proposed rulemaking.

Six Comment Letters Filed with the FDIC

Over the past year, WBA filed six comment letters with Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Two of WBA’s letters commented on FDIC’s actions regarding examinations. In the first, WBA commented on the FDIC’s proposed hybrid approach to bank examinations and in the second, WBA commented on the post-examination surveys related to FDIC Safety and Soundness and Consumer Compliance examinations. In each letter, WBA emphasized the importance of the FDIC establishing consistent coordination and communication with banks.

Three Comment Letters Filed with the CFPB

WBA wrote three letters this year to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Most recently, WBA responded to CFPB’s concerns regarding products which feature “junk fees,” assuring CFPB that the Wisconsin financial services marketplace is competitive, featuring a diverse range of high-quality, convenient, innovative, and competitively priced products and services. Additionally, WBA highlighted that, despite CFPB’s concerns, the market is highly regulated, and that further rulemaking is unnecessary as fees are already subject to disclosure requirements.

Four Comment Letters Filed with the FRB

This year, WBA also filed four comment letters with Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (FRB). In one of the letters, WBA addressed FRB’s request for comment regarding the evaluation of account and services requests. WBA acknowledged FRB’s attempt to create consistency, but ultimately expressed concern with allowing access to the payment system by entities with little or no regulatory oversight, lack of protection, and minimal capital and liquidity requirements, among others. WBA proposed that FRB establish standards or requirements for users, maintain ongoing review of those involved, as well as coordinate an FRB-led evaluation committee.

One Comment Letter Filed with the HUD

In late May, WBA expressed support of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) proposal to extend a term for loan modifications. The modification would allow mortgagees to modify Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insured mortgage loans by recasting the total unpaid amount due for a new term limit of 480 months — an increase from a term limit of 360 months; allow FHA-loan borrowers similar flexibility and benefits as is available for Fannie-/Freddie-loan borrowers; and  creates yet another tool for Wisconsin’s financial institutions to use in their continued work to help find solutions for struggling borrowers to retain their homes.

One Comment Letter Filed with the OCC

In a letter filed with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), WBA was able to comment on a final rule to adopt a new Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) framework. This regulation facilitated the issuance of joint CRA to an interagency basis which would allow for greater coordination on all CRA ruling between the OCC, FRB, and FDIC for the benefit of banks serving low- and moderate-income communities.

One Interagency Comment Letter Filed

Some rulemakings are issued on an interagency basis. This year, WBA commented on the FRB, FDIC, and OCC’s proposed interagency guidance on third-party relationships related to risk management. In the letter, WBA commented that this effort would promote consistency in their guidance as well as clearly articulate risk-based principles. In addition, WBA identified several ways Wisconsin banks will be impacted by the new guidance during final implementation.

Conclusion

Industry comment is a critical aspect to the rulemaking process. It is an opportunity for the industry’s voice to be heard, and it is important that the agencies hear from banks about how rulemaking affects you. WBA welcomes feedback on comment letters because it is key that we, and the agencies, hear directly from members.

For more information on the rulemaking process, comments, and upcoming rules, contact the WBA Legal Department at wbalegal@wisbank.com. For a full list of the comment letters filed during the 2021–22 fiscal year, visit www.wisbank.com/advocacy/comment-letter-library.

*This article has been updated from previous published editions