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Engaging Your Board with a New Bank Logo

November 11, 2016

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From time to time we hear from bank senior management that their board doesn’t seem engaged, or that they can’t get a sustained conversation out of their board.  Instead, board meetings consist of routine review of management reports, with motions, seconds, and unanimous adoptions of management recommendations without any meaningful discussion.  Years of bank board meetings can go by without a single dissenting vote recorded in the bank’s board minutes.  Regulators may being to question, perhaps correctly, that the board has merely become a rubber stamp for management, and that the board is merely “going through the motions” at each board meeting.

Over time, we have found one topic for which no board member can remain silent, and everyone (and I mean everyone) has an opinion.

What color should the bank’s new logo be?

Branch lobby carpet colors can also be quite effective, as can capitalization (grammar, not balance sheet, i.e. Fintech vs. FinTech),  a change in mascot or marketing gimmick, or minor tweaks to branch hours.

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12 Questions You Need to Answer Before Starting a New Bank

November 4, 2016

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With paths recently being cleared from a regulatory perspective and the consolidation in the market, we’re hoping to see a pickup in de novo applications (and one that is far greater than the five applications the FDIC has indicated it has received for all of 2015). Because of the recent history of difficulty starting new banks and the extremely limited number of applications this year, we imagine many of the qualified candidates are hesitant to take the first steps. We’d like to make the process easier for you.

In his article, “Thinking of Starting a New Bank? Answer These Questions First,” which was published in The Banking Law Journal today, my partner, Jonathan Hightower (@hightowerbanks), covers twelve questions that organizing groups and individuals should answer as they begin a venture toward a de novo bank.

Please call any member of our Financial Institutions team if you’d like to start talking about the prospect of organizing a new bank, or if your further down the road and would like our guidance with your application – we’re happy to help.

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Reimagining Your Board’s Function

November 3, 2016

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the-bank-accountThey said we’d never get this far, but Episode 2 of The Bank Account is now online.

In this episode, Jonathan and I are joined by colleague Ken Achenbach to discuss the recent jury verdict in the FDIC vs. Loudermilk case and what impact it should have on community bank boards and committees.  We also discuss how board performance can be improved by focusing on strategic rather than individual management decisions.

Please click on the link to subscribe to the feed on iTunes, Android, Email or MyCast. It is also now available in the iTunes and Google Play searchable podcast directories.

You can also follow-us on Twitter for updates between podcast episodes @RobertKlingler and @hightowerbanks.

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Introducing The Bank Account

October 31, 2016

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Introducing The Bank Account

October 31, 2016

Authored by: Robert Klingler

the-bank-accountPrefer getting your banking law news via podcasts?  Need something to make your commute more informative?  Looking for a way to spend more time (at no cost!) with Jonathan Hightower or me?  Wondering what horror will be introduced to the world on Halloween 2016?

The inaugural episode of The Bank Account is online!

Please click on the link to subscribe to the feed on iTunes, Android, Email or MyCast. It is also in the review process for being added to the iTunes and Google Play searchable podcast directories. We’re also working on a home for it on BryanCave.com. Stay tuned (pun intended) for updates.

In episode 1, Jonathan and I summarize the bank M&A market for 2016, along with prognostications for what we believe we’ll see as we head into 2017.

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Supreme Court to Address Whether Collection of Time-Barred Debts Violate FDCPA

October 14, 2016

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Our colleagues at The Bankruptcy Cave, Bryan Cave’s Bankruptcy & Restructuring Blog, recently published a blog post on the Supreme Court agreeing to to hear the issue of whether a debt collector that buys old, charged off debt which is beyond the statute of limitations violations the Fair Debt Collection practices Act when it files a proof of claim on that debt in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy (which they all do, as no one has an incentive to object to the claim, and they often collect far more on the debt than what they paid).

[On October 11, 2016,] the Supreme Court granted certiorari on an issue that (a) is pretty important in the world of consumer debt collection, and (b) makes some folks pretty darn furious. The issue is this:  if you file a proof of claim in a bankruptcy case, and you know such claim is barred by the applicable statute of limitations, are you committing a “misleading” or “unfair” practice under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)?

Read more on The Bankruptcy Cave for further insights on the competing interests at play, and how the Court may ultimately rule.  And if you haven’t seen John Oliver’s take on the practice of buying uncollectible medical debt, the post contains a link to the video.

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A Unique Rationale for a Bank Robbery

September 8, 2016

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We don’t often post about crimes against banks, especially when they involve clients, but this story out of Kansas City deserves a wider audience.

A 70-year-old man is charged with robbing a Kansas City bank (located just down the street from the police headquarters), after handing a note to a teller indicating that he had a gun and demanding money.  He then proceeded to take the money and a seat in the bank lobby.

When I say he took a seat, I don’t mean he physically removed a chair, but rather that he simply sat down.

His rationale appears to be that he would prefer to live in a jail cell than with his wife, with whom he he’d had an argument.

You can read more about it in the Kansas City Star.

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Economies of Scale Encourage Continued Consolidation

The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis just published a short summary of research by economists with the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City concluding that compliance costs weigh “quite a bit” more heavily on smaller banks than their larger counterparts in the community banking segment.  Looking specifically at banks under $10 billion in total assets (where additional Dodd-Frank-related burdens are triggered), the study found that the ratio of compliance costs as a percentage of total noninterest expenses were inversely correlated with the size of the bank.  While banks with total assets between $1 and $10 billion in total assets reported total compliance costs averaging 2.9% of their total noninterest expenses, banks between $100 million and $250 million reported total compliance costs averaging 5.9% and banks below $100 million reported average compliance costs of 8.7% of non-interest expenses.

While nominal compliance costs continued to increase as banks increased in size (from about $160 thousand in compliance expense annually for banks under $100 million to $1.8 million annually for banks between $1 and $10 billion), the banks were better able to absorb this expense in the larger banks.  Looked at another way, the marginal cost of maintaining a larger asset base, at least in the context of compliance costs, decreases as the asset base grows.

With over 1,663 commercial banks with total assets of less than $100 million in the United States as of March 31, 2016 (and 3,734 banks with between $100 million and $1 billion), barring significant regulatory relief for the smallest institutions, we believe we will continue to see a natural consolidation of banks.  While we continue to believe there is no minimum size that an institution must be, we also consistently hear from bankers in the industry that they could be more efficient if they are larger… and the research bears them out.

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Too Small to Succeed or Ownership Structure to Thrive?

April 4, 2016

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Two recent federal banking agency reports show very different pictures of the banking environment for community banks.  In “Too Small to Succeed? – Community Banks in a New Regulatory Environment,” the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas lays out the “apparent” rising regulatory burden confronting banks today.  In contract, “Financial Performance and Management Structure of Small, Closely Held Banks,” published in the FDIC Quarterly, provides an empirical analysis of the success of closely held community banks in the FDIC Kansas City, Dallas and Chicago regions.

Lots of Community Banks Remain

As a reminder (which often seems forgotten in these discussions), the U.S. banking industry is still full of community banks.  As of December 31, 2015 (the latest data available), there were 6,182 insured depository institutions in the United States (banks and thrifts, exclusive of credit unions).  Only 107 of those institutions had more than $10 billion in assets; 595 institutions had between $1 and $10 billion, 3,792 had between $100 million and $1 billion, and 1,688 had less than $100 million in assets.  (That’s not to say there isn’t significant concentration; the 110 institutions over $10 billion in assets hold over 81% of the assets in the industry.)

As indicated by the otherwise down-beat Federal Reserve paper, community banks (measured as having less than $10 billion in this analysis) have still maintained 55% of all small-business loans and 75% of all agricultural loans (and banks under $1 billion in total assets still provide 54% of all agricultural loans).  As pointed out by the Federal Reserve paper, community banks accounted for 64% of the $4.6 trillion of total banking assets in 1992, but accounted for only 19% of $15.9 trillion of banking assets in 2015.  While we have certainly had consolidation (both fewer banks, and larger banks), the community bank’s aggregate market ownership has, based on the Federal Reserve’s percentages and totals, actually gone up slightly from $2.9 trillion to $3.0 trillion.

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Supervisory “Concerns” with Shareholder Protection Arrangements

February 9, 2016

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In December 2015 (following years of sporadic and seemingly random criticism) of shareholder protection arrangements, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System issued guidance that the Federal Reserve “may” object to a shareholder protection agreement based on the facts and circumstances and the features of the particular arrangement.  Federal Reserve Supervisory Letter SR 15-15 does not require submission of such arrangements to the Federal Reserve for comment prior to implementation, but rather directs institutions considering the implementation or modification of such arrangements to “review this guidance to help ensure that supervisory concerns are addressed.”

Supervisory Letter SR 15-15 casts a long shadow, with little clarity as to the line between acceptable and unacceptable arrangements. SR 15-15 cites a wide array of potentially objectionable shareholder protection arrangements, but then indicates that supervisory staff has “in some instances” found that these arrangements would “have negative implications on a holding company’s capital or financial position, limit a holding company’s financial flexibility and capital-raising capacity, or otherwise impair a holding company’s ability to raise additional capital.”  Presumably speaking only of these particular arrangements (although not clearly so stating), SR 15-15 states “[t]hese arrangements impede the ability of a holding company to serve as a source of strength to its insured depository subsidiaries and were considered unsafe and unsound.”

SR 15-15 provides a number of examples of categories of shareholder protection arrangements that have (sometimes) raised supervisory issues.  Some of these examples are entirely consistent with past Federal Reserve precedent and are generally impermissible in bank-related investments, including price protections in offering arrangements whereby a holding company agrees to a cash payment or additional shares to the investor in the event that additional shares are issued in subsequent transactions at lower prices.  These “down-round” provisions have always been viewed by the Federal Reserve as acting as an impermissible disincentive (and potential disabling mechanism) for a holding company to raise additional capital going forward.  (In a surprising move of clarity, the Federal Reserve guidance does, by footnote, specifically indicate that preemptive rights, or the right to participate in subsequent offerings to prevent dilution of ownership, does not, in general, raise any supervisory concerns.)

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