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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


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  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.


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


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.


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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A Recap of the AOBA M&A Simulation with FIG Partners

On the second day of Bank Director’s Acquire or Be Acquired (AOBA) Conference, we were honored to co-host with FIG Partners for the second year, the M&A Simulation.  The M&A Simulation is an exclusive, bankers-only, session at AOBA that attempts to walk through the initial stages of a bank merger.  Like last year, we divided the attending bankers into three groups, representing the boards of directors of three distinct participants: Bank A, a $700 million bank looking to sell, and Banks B & C, two larger potential acquirers.


Immediately after the simulation, we sat down with Matt Veneri and Dan Flaherty with FIG Partners for a quick recap of the AOBA18 M&A Simulation on The Bank Account.

This is the second 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, but we jumped at the opportunity to be able to share our conversations with so many interesting colleagues at Acquire or Be Acquired.  We hope you enjoy the conversation with Matt and Dan as much as we did. We’re already planning a few new tricks for the M&A Simulation at the 2019 Acquire or Be Acquired Conference, and hope you’ll look to join us then.

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A Conversation with Rory McKinney of D.A. Davidson; Day 1 at AOBA

the-bank-accountFor the next several The Bank Account episodes, we’re on the road at Bank Director’s Acquire or Be Acquired (AOBA) Conference.  In our first installment from AOBA, we highlight our respective take-aways from the first day of AOBA and then sit down with Rory McKinney, Managing Director and Head of Investment Banking for D.A. Davison & Co. to discuss Rory’s outlook for bank M&A activity in 2018.

This is the first 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, but we jumped at the opportunity to be able to share our conversations with so many interesting colleagues at Acquire or Be Acquired.  We hope you enjoy the conversation with Rory McKinney as much as we did.

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Modifications to the California Homeowner Bill of Rights

On January 1, 2018, certain provisions of the California Homeowner Bill of Rights (“HBOR”) expired.  But contrary to what many assumed, the January 1, 2018 expiration date did not apply to all of the HBOR’s provisions, and many provisions have been replaced by new regulations.  We’ve prepared the below summary of some of the substantial changes to the law and how they will affect HBOR litigation in the future.

  • The new HBOR removes many of the distinctions between servicers conducting more/less than 175 annual foreclosures.  In most but not all respects, all servicers are treated the same going forward.
  • Changes in the private right of action/relief.
    • The HBOR still has a private cause of action, but only for material violations of section 2923.5 (pre-NOD notice requirements), 2923.7 (single point of contact), 2924.11 (dual tracking), and 2924.17 (accuracy of NOD declaration; substantiate right to foreclose).
    • Injunctive relief is available prior to the recording of a trustee’s deed.  After a trustee’s deed is recorded, a servicer may be liable for actual economic damage and the greater of treble or actual damages for material violations that are intentional or reckless.  Attorney’s fees are still available if the borrower prevails.
    • However, mortgage servicers who have engaged in “multiple and repeated uncorrected violations” of section 2924.17 are no longer liable for a $7,500 penalty.
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