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Georgia DBF Clarifies Guidance on Loan Renewals

Georgia Department of Banking and Finance Commissioner Rob Braswell has advised us that the Department’s announcement last week was intended to provide relief only in the context of “loan stacking” under the Department’s proposed new Rule 80-1-5-.11.  Accordingly, the Department will permit renewals of loans which had originally been made in conformity to the loan to one borrower, but would otherwise not be in conformity with the loan to one borrower rule solely due to the the Department’s proposed new “loan stacking” rules.

Renewals and extensions of loans where the loan to one borrower issues arises solely because of capital losses since the loan was originally made are NOT covered by the Department’s announcement.  We are continuing to pursue this issue with the Department, but in the meantime, our recommendation is that banks should NOT extend or renew loans to borrowers where the extension or renewal would violate the loan to one borrower rule as a result of reductions in the limit resulting from capital losses.

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Georgia DBF Provides Guidance on Legal Lending Limits for Loan Renewals

The Georgia Department of Banking and Finance (“DBF”), announced today a significant change in the way in which the legal lending limit will be applied in the context of loan renewals.  Due to a shrinking capital base, a large number of banks have been struggling with the issue of what to do with loans whose renewal would cause a violation of the legal lending limit.  These were loans that met the requirements when the loan was made but could not be made today due to the bank’s smaller capital position. The position of the DBF has been that a bank should not renew such a loan.  In the current economic environment this places banks in an untenable situation because borrowers are unable to pay off the loans due to a lack of liquidity and no other financial institutions are willing to take over the credits.  The only option left for a bank in such a situation is to enter into some sort of forbearance agreement with the borrower.  The result of that, however, is that after 90 days the loan will need to be downgraded to substandard, regardless of whether the borrower is able to keep interest payments current.

Following direct discussions among GBA President Joe Brannen, GBA counsel Walt Moeling and Jerry Blanchard, Commissioner Rob Braswell, and the DBF Staff dealing with this issue, the DBF announced today that it shall be the position of the DBF that if loans are modified or renewed by the bank without any additional extension of credit outstanding, such loans will not be cited for a violation of the new rules of the Department contained in Rule 80-1-5-.11.  The DBF goes on to note, however, that the fact that a violation of the lending limit rule is not being cited should not be interpreted as a finding of creditworthiness by the DBF. A decision to classify a credit or credit relationship is an independent process from the application of statutes and rules.

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Additional FDIC Guidance on Modification of Repurchase Agreements

On July 6, 2009, the FDIC published a set of Frequently Asked Questions relating to the Sweep Account Disclosure Requirements which recently went into effect.   One of the issues addressed was what does the FDIC consider to be a perfected interest in a security.   This issue first came up earlier this year when the FDIC took the position that many repurchase agreements were defective and that in a failed bank situation the FDIC would take the position that the funds subject to such an agreement never left the deposit account.   One of the primary defects which the FDIC pointed out was the right of substitution found in many such agreements.  This announcement caused many banks to modify their master repurchase agreements to delete that right.

The FAQ clarifies the FDIC’s position in several respects.  It first addresses the basic question of when is a security interest perfected in a security.  The FDIC generally considers three elements in determining whether the customer has a perfected security interest in a security subject to a repo sweep: (1) the particular security in which the customer has an interest has been identified, and this identity is indicated in a daily confirmation statement; (2) the customer has “control” of the particular security; and (3) there is no substitution of the security during the term of the repurchase agreement even if the agreement allows for substitution with the customer/buyer’s consent.

Identification of Securities

The element of identification is met by a confirmation identifying the security (i.e., CUSIP or mortgage-backed security pool number) and also specifying the issuer, maturity date, coupon rate, par amount and market value. Fractional interests in a specific security must be identified, if relevant.  Importantly, the FDIC takes the position that an arrangement where bulk segregation or pooling of repurchase collateral without identification of specific securities does not result in the buyer receiving an identified interest in specifically identifies securities.

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Missouri Joins The Ranks of Notification-Requiring States for Data Breaches

Missouri recently enacted a law which made it the 45th state to adopt data breach notification regulations. The law goes into effect August 28, 2009.  Similar to other states’ laws, Missouri’s law applies to any persons and companies who have personal information of a Missouri resident, regardless of size, nature of business or other factors.

What Type of Information is Covered? Missouri’s law defines “personal information” expansively to include:

  • social security numbers;
  • driver’s license numbers or similar unique identification numbers created by a government body;
  • financial account numbers (with a required security code, access code or password which would permit access to the account);
  • credit card or debit card numbers (with a required security code, access code or password which would permit access to the account);
  • unique electronic identifiers or routing codes (with a required security code, access code or password which would permit access to the account);
  • medical information; and
  • health insurance information.

What You Must Do After a Breach. If a breach occurs, you must provide notice to the Missouri resident that a breach has occurred without any unreasonable delay. That notice must include, at minimum:

  1. a description of the incident in general terms;
  2. the type of information that was obtained in the breach;
  3. a contact number for the person or company for further assistance; and
  4. contact information for consumer reporting agencies.

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Overcoming the National Deposit Interest Rate Presumption

As we’ve previously discussed, the FDIC has revised the brokered deposit/interest rate restrictions to create a presumption in favor of a “national deposit interest rate” starting January 1, 2009.  Less than well-capitalized institutions will be then barred from paying in excess of 75 basis above the national rate, unless the institution is successful in convincing the FDIC that the institution’s local deposit rate market is above the national rate.

We have had several conversations with FDIC staff over the last few weeks regarding the FDIC’s intentions with respect to the new national deposit rate structure and how FDIC in Atlanta would approach it, given that the apparent average rate in Atlanta is already higher than 75 basis points more than the national rate.  FDIC staff stated that this was a very difficult and very sensitive issue, and that the local office of FDIC anticipated that most banks would, and would be permitted to, use a local rate basis.  That was the good news.

The bad news is that the burden of proof is going to become very high for any bank attempting to demonstrate the local rates.  The FDIC has subscribed to a service called “RateWatch” that they were going to use, he believed, as a reference point.  The  FDIC will analyze carefully the definition of the local market and the computation of the average from that market.  We understand that the analysis will have to be done on a branch by branch basis within the chosen market area (using newspaper quotes is apparently not enough).

Banks seeking to support a higher local rate would need to define its “local market” — i.e., counties in which the bank has branches, or perhaps another standard that the bank can support — and then calculate the local rate paid by each bank and branch in its local market.  For this purpose, each branch is given the same weight as a single-office bank; for example, if Bank of America has 5 branches in your market, the rate paid by each of those branches is counted individually and weighted equally.  This will likely cause the large national retail banks to have a significant and disproportionate influence on local rates, especially if they are not competing for the same local deposits sought by community banks.

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COMPLIANCE REMINDER – Red Flag Rules Apply August 1, 2009

Although some questioned if the day would arrive, the Red Flag Rules issued by the FTC, the federal bank regulatory agencies and the National Credit Union Administration go into effect August 1, 2009. The Rules are drafted broadly and will apply to many different companies, including “financial institutions and creditors with covered accounts.” Essentially, if you offer any form of loan or maintain any form of money account, you will have to comply the Red Flag Rules.

Preparing for August 1

The biggest step you should take is to prepare a Red Flag Plan. Although the Rules stress that each program should be tailored to the individual entity, some central elements should be present:

  • IDENTIFICATION – Make sure your plan identifies what constitutes a “red flag” (i.e. what could reasonably indicate identify theft).
  • DETECTION – Make sure you have a written procedure for how you will detect, understand and process any red flags.
  • RESPONSE – Make sure you adequately define how you will respond, making sure that you include enough flexibility to respond adequately to different levels of threat.
  • MAINTENANCE – Make sure you have a set process for reviewing, updating and revising your Red Flag Plan.
  • OVERSIGHT – Make sure the plan is properly approved by the Board of Directors, Managers or similar management positions, and include explicit designations of power as to who in management (either the Board or a senior officer) will oversee the Plan and its execution.
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Obama Proposes Comprehensive Regulatory Reform

On June 17, 2009, the Obama administration publicly announced its vision of regulatory reform.  Among the key points for community banks and thrifts:

  • Combine the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) into a new federal agency, the National Bank Supervisor, which would remain an office of the Treasury Department.  The National Bank Supervisor would have all the powers of the OCC and the OTS.  The Federal Reserve and FDIC would retain their respective roles with respect to state banks.
  • Eliminate the federal thrift charter, subject to “reasonable” transition arrangements.
  • Eliminate restrictions on interstate branching by national and state banks.  States would not be allowed to prevent de novo branching into the state, or to impose a minimum age requirement of in-state banks that can be acquired by an out-of-state banking firm.
  • Thrift holding companies and Industrial Loan Company (ILC) holding companies would both be required to become Bank Holding Companies supervised by the Federal Reserve.
  • Create a new federal Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA).  The CFPA is proposed to have sole authority to promulgate and interpret regulations under existing consumer financial services and fair lending statutes, including TILA, HOEPA, RESPA, CRA, and HMDA.  The CFPA is also proposed to assume from the federal prudential regulators all responsibilities for the supervision, examination and enforcement of consumer financial protection regulations.
  • States would have the authority to adopt and enforce stricter laws, and federally chartered institutions would be subject to nondiscriminatory state consumer protection and civil rights laws to the same extent as other financial institutions.

As a reminder, we are the very beginning of regulatory reform; the final reforms are undoubtedly not going to be exactly as laid out in the President’s current proposal.

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Modification of Repurchase Agreements May be Required

Earlier this year the FDIC published its Final Rule on Processing Deposit Accounts in the Event of an Insured Depository Institution Failure.  One of the requirements of the Rule is that financial institutions are required to provide sweep account customers with information about what would happen to the customer’s funds in the event the institution failed.  As a byproduct of the attention being paid to the new sweep account disclosure rules, the FDIC has also focused on the terms of the Master Repurchase Agreement used in certain sweep arrangements where the institution serves as the customer’s custodial agent for securities held at another financial intermediary.

The standard industry Repurchase Agreement contains a provision which allows the financial institution to substitute the originally purchased securities with different securities of the same type.  The FDIC has recently taken the position that the right of substitution renders a Repurchase Agreement used in connection with such a sweep account defective based on the fact that the institution retains excessive control over the securities.   The result of this is that the customer’s funds will be treated as if they never left the deposit account from which they originated.   This could be devastating to a customer in the event of the failure of the institution.

In addition to the risk which a customer runs of having significant uninsured deposits, the financial institution runs the risk that the funds should have been reported on a Call or Thrift Financial Report as deposits for purposes of reserves and assessments. This then in turn raises issues of whether the financial institution has been in violation of Reg Q  which prohibits the payment of interest on demand deposits.

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FDIC Issues Final Brokered Deposit and Interest Rate Restriction Regulations

On May 29, 2009, the FDIC adopted a final rule amending the interest rate restrictions applicable to institutions that are less than well capitalized.  The new regulation, which will take effect on January 1, 2010, will effectively tie interest rate caps to an average of interest rates charged nationally, significantly diminishing the importance of calculating prevailing interest rates within local deposit market areas.  Less than well-capitalized institutions will generally be subject to national rate caps as published by the FDIC.

Existing Rules

Section 29 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act places statutory limits on the ability of any insured depository institution that is not well capitalized to accept brokered deposits.  As we have noted earlier, these brokered deposit rules also limit the interest rates that may be paid by insured depository institutions that are not well capitalized.  In order to be considered well capitalized, an insured depository institution must exceed certain uniform regulatory capital measures, as well as not be subject to any written agreement or order issued by its primary federal regulator that requires the institution to meet and maintain a specific capital level for any capital measure.

Under the current rules, any institution that is not well capitalized (including those subject to a regulatory capital order) may not pay interest in excess of 75 basis points over the average interest paid for comparable deposits in the institution’s “normal market area,” although institutions operating under a brokered deposit waiver may not pay interest rates in excess of 75 basis points over a “national rate” for deposits that are accepted outside the institution’s “normal market area.”

The current rule has proved increasingly problematic in recent years; with the Internet blurring local deposit market boundaries, regulators and institutions have had difficulty determining what constitutes an institution’s “normal market area.” In addition, the “national rate” applicable to institutions with a brokered deposit waiver has proved to be largely obsolete in recent years, as it ties permissible interest rates paid on deposits solicited nationally to the comparable maturity Treasury yield, resulting in an excessively low “national rate.”

The New Rule

The new rule moves to solve these two problems by redefining the “national rate” as “a simple average of rates paid by all insured depository institutions and branches for which data are available” and creating a presumption that this national rate is the prevailing rate in any market.  Effective immediately, the FDIC will regularly (weekly) publish national rates and caps, and permit institutions that are less than well capitalized to avail themselves of these rates as a safe harbor for complying with the statutory interest rate restrictions.

As of June 1, 2009, the highest rate that could be paid by a less than well-capitalized institution for a savings account would be 97 basis points, for a money-market account would be 1.21%, for a six-month CD would be 1.70%, for a one-year CD would be 2.00%, and for a 5-year CD would be 2.94%.  The FDIC Weekly National Rates and Rate Caps provides the rates and caps for various deposit maturities and sizes.

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FDIC Adopts a Final Rule Regarding Special Assessments

On May 22, 2009, the FDIC adopted a final rule imposing a 5 basis point special assessment and authorizing the FDIC to impose additional special assessments of 5 basis points, if necessary.  The initial special assessment and any additional special assessment will be based on an institution’s assets minus Tier 1 capital as of June 30, 2009.  This final rule differs significantly from the interim rule that FDIC issued on March 2, 2009.

The interim rule contemplated a 20 basis point special assessment, based on an institution’s deposits, which is the assessment base used for the regular quarterly risk-based assessments.  The interim rule also contemplated imposing additional special assessments of up to 10 basis points at the end of each remaining calendar quarter of 2009.

The final rule lowered the initial special assessment from 20 to 5 basis points, and any additional special assessment from 10 to 5 basis points, but changed the assessment base from deposits to assets minus Tier 1 capital.  The memorandum from the FDIC’s director of the insurance and research division indicates that the “departure from the regular risk-based assessment base is appropriate in the current circumstances because it better balances the burden of the special assessment.”

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