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CFPB’s Delay in Announcing Further Delay of the Prepaid Card Rule

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has issued a brief press announcement that the Prepaid Card Rule would be further revised and that the effective date for compliance will be further postponed from the current deadline in April 2018.

The announcement creates more worry than relief – it’s just a tease. The announcement did not say what changes would be made or when the new deadline will be. It only said that amendments to “certain aspects” of the rule would be coming “soon after the new year.”  No doubt the Bureau meant for this announcement to be helpful to someone, but it is not clear if anyone is actually helped.

Prepaid card issuers are scrambling to implement the systems changes and new business processes necessary to support the sweeping changes required by the rule. With this announcement, they must now wonder which of those efforts will turn out to be wasted, or perhaps need to be re-worked, and they can’t pause pursuing any specific implementation efforts until the actual amendments are published. Are they supposed to trust that the extra time to be allowed by the CFPB will be sufficient to accommodate this pivot?

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New Year, New You – What’s on Your Bank’s List of New Year’s Resolutions?

With the end of the year approaching, it is time to start looking forward to 2018 and putting together that list of New Year’s resolutions. This list of annual goals can be especially important for community banks because, let’s face it, times are a-changin’ and community banks cannot afford to ignore this, especially in the face of the ostensible juggernaut that is fintech. “New Year, New You” doesn’t have to be a mantra solely for individuals; it can also be a mantra for community banks who want to make 2018 a successful year. To get you started, we have provided some suggestions that may help you turn 2018 into a very positive year for your bank.

Don’t be Consciously Blind

With such a vast amount of information thrown at us every day, I think we are all guilty of becoming consciously blind. It’s true, all the information can overwhelm us, making us turn a blind eye and ignore what everyone has to say and assume if something really important happens, someone will tell us. As a banker, you cannot afford to do this. With the promulgation of new regulations and advances in technology, it is important for community banks to remain aware of the financial landscape and evolve. Whether this means meeting revised regulations or updating technology to meet your customer’s needs, make a resolution to stay abreast of information that may affect your bank.

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Acquire or Be Acquired 2018 M&A Simulation

We are looking forward to running the M&A Simulation at Bank Director’s 2018 Acquire or Be Acquired Conference with our friends at FIG Partners.  This is the second year we’ve teamed up with FIG Partners to present a simulation of the community bank merger and acquisition sale process.  We’ve identified the basics of this year’s fictional banks, and are looking forward to another exciting simulation.

The simulation is an exclusive session at Acquire or Be Acquired, is open to 45 bank attendees only and fills up quickly.  If you’re planning to attend AOBA and want to ensure your spot in the simulation, please contact us.  If you’re interested in attending and haven’t already registered the conference, please contact us to receive our sponsorship code for a $400 discount.

The 2017 simulation involved competing bidders for a billion dollar community bank, identified as Bank A.  Bank B, a $1.3 billion institution, offered a merger of equals opportunity, hoping that one plus one could equal three, while Bank C, a $6 billion institution with strong organic growth, was able to win the hearts and minds of Bank A with a strong all stock offer.  The simulation ultimately mirrored what we often see, small buyers must be very creative or seek opportunities that are not coveted by larger, more highly valued public buyers. See our write-up of the 2017 M&A Simulation for additional information.

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Bank CEO’s Success Strategies; A Conversation with DHG Financial Services

the-bank-accountOn the latest episode of The Bank Account, I had a conversation with Suzanne Donner and Bill Walton of DHG Financial Services to discuss their new whitepaper on the insights of top performing community bank CEOs.   DHG Financial Services conducted a series of interviews with the CEOs of 22 top performing community banks and has compiled their insights into a fantastic white paper.  I was honored to receive an advance copy, and was thrilled to have Suzanne and Bill join me to discuss their findings.

The financial performance of the 22 banks selected demonstrates that they’re doing something right.  ROAA for the group was 1.82% and ROAE was 18.19%.  At the same time, the banks enjoyed a Texas Ratio of less than 10% and an efficiency ratio of just 52.76%.

On the podcast, we discussed each of the three main areas of the white paper: areas in which the top performing community banks are clearly “ahead of the curve;” areas in which the banks are “on the curve;” and areas in which they see emerging risks. DHG’s research suggests that, collectively, these top-performing community banks are ahead of the curve when it comes to their strategic focus, talent caliber and relationships. They are on the curve (and for the most part, comfortably so), in their use of technology for the customer experience, determining success metrics and growth, and strategic planning.  Among the emerging risks and opportunities for community banks to shape the future, top performers generally focused on their responses to the emergence of millennials, as well as the advent of big data analytics.

I’m biased, but I think it’s a great conversation and a great white paper.  There are obviously a lot of resources out there about the industry, but I think this is close to a “must-read” for community bank executives and directors.

To request a copy of the full white paper, contact DHG Financial Services at benchstrength@dhgllp.com.

 

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Snow, Cybersecurity and Data Breaches with Jena Valdetero

the-bank-accountOn the latest episode of The Bank Account, Jonathan and I were joined by our Chicago partner, Jena Valdetero, to discuss snow, cybersecurity and data breaches.  While Jena would normally be the one dealing with winter weather, it was Jonathan and myself watching the snow fall in Atlanta while Jena enjoyed a relatively warm, sunny day in Chicago.

Jena is part of Bryan Cave’s Data Privacy and Security Team, and joined us to discuss some of the current threats in cybersecurity and some of the steps that banks (and bank customers) should be taking, as well as offering some thoughts on how banks can assist their customers in minimizing the ever present cybersecurity risk.

Among the resources discussed by Jena were:

And I’m going to go change my passwords now….

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Courts Continue to Weigh in on the Issue of Website Accessibility

Courts across the country continue to weigh in on the issue of website accessibility. Earlier this month, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire denied a Motion to Dismiss filed by online food delivery servicer Blue Apron. In denying the motion, the court found that Blue Apron’s website is a place of public accommodation – despite the fact that Blue Apron operates only online and has no traditional brick and mortar locations. Access Now, Inc. v. Blue Apron, LLC, Case No. 17-cv-00116, Dkt. No. 46 (D. N.H. Nov. 8, 2017). In so finding, the court relied on binding precedent in the First Circuit, and noted that other Courts of Appeals, namely the Third, Fifth, Sixth and Ninth Circuits, have held that in order to be considered a “public accommodation,” an online business must have a nexus to an actual, physical space. Id. at pp. 9-10. This decision highlights that the issue of website accessibility, especially as it applies to online only businesses, remains a contested issue.

The New Hampshire federal court also found that despite the lack of regulations from the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), “Blue Apron must still comply with Title III’s more general prohibition on disability-based discrimination….” Id. at pp. 14-15. The court noted that there might have been a due process violation if plaintiffs had “attempt[ed] to hold Blue Apron liable for failure to comply with independent accessibility standards not promulgated by the DOJ, such as the WCAG 2.0 AA standards….” Id. at p. 20. This was not a concern, however, because plaintiffs relied on Title III of the ADA as governing potential liability and only invoked compliance with WCAG 2.0 AA standards as a “sufficient” but not “necessary” condition. Id. at p. 21.

The Court also took up the issue of primary jurisdiction and held that because “the potential for delay” was “great,” it would not invoke the primary jurisdiction doctrine and dismiss or stay the matter until DOJ issues regulations concerning website accessibility. This holding is in direct contrast to the holding in Robles v. Dominos Pizza, LLC, where the United States District Court for the Northern District of California held that it would violate Domino’s due process rights to find that its website violates the ADA because the DOJ still has not promulgated regulations defining website accessibility. See Robles v. Dominos Pizza LLC, No. 16-cv-06599, Dkt. No. 42 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 20, 2017). Further analysis regarding the Robles case can be found in this blog post.

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The Magic of Mt. Gox

The Magic of Mt. Gox

November 27, 2017

Authored by: Bryce Suzuki and Justin Sabin

How Bitcoin Is Confounding Insolvency Law

Arthur C. Clarke famously observed: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Our regulatory, legislative, and judicial systems illustrate this principle whenever new technology exceeds the limits of our existing legal framework and collective legal imagination.  Cryptocurrency, such as bitcoin, has proven particularly “magical” in the existing framework of bankruptcy law, which has not yet determined quite what bitcoin is—a currency, an intangible asset, a commodity contract, or something else entirely.

The answer to that question matters, because capturing the value of highly-volatile cryptocurrency often determines winners and losers in bankruptcy cases where cryptocurrency is a significant asset. The recently-publicized revelation that the bankruptcy trustee of failed bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox is holding more than $1.9 billion worth of previously lost or stolen bitcoins highlights the issue.

The Mt. Gox Case:  Timing is Everything

In 2013, Mt. Gox[1] was the world’s largest bitcoin exchange.  By some estimates, it accounted for more than 80% of all bitcoin exchange activity.  By February 2014, Mt. Gox had shut down its website, frozen customer accounts, and ceased trading.  A leaked internal document indicated that hackers had gained access to Mt. Gox’s online wallets and stolen nearly 850,000 bitcoins, each then worth approximately $550.  That same month, Mt. Gox commenced insolvency proceedings in Japan, and thereafter filed a corresponding chapter 15 bankruptcy in the United States.  Mt. Gox eventually “found” approximately 200,000 bitcoins previously believed to be among those lost or stolen.

When it became clear that Mt. Gox could not reorganize and would proceed with liquidation, the Japanese court appointed a trustee over Mt. Gox’s assets.  A former Mt. Gox exchange customer then filed a lawsuit against the trustee seeking the return of the customer’s purchased bitcoins.  The Japanese court, however, ruled that the bitcoins at issue were not capable of ownership under Japanese law and dismissed the lawsuit.  Article 85 of the Civil Code of Japan provides that an object of ownership must be a tangible “thing,” in contrast to intangible rights (like contract or tort claims) or natural forces (like sunlight or electricity).  Bitcoin, the court ruled, does not meet the definition of a “thing” under the statute and, therefore, does not qualify for private ownership.

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Thanksgiving: Regulatory Relief and Tax Reform

the-bank-accountOn the latest episode of The Bank Account, Jonathan and I discuss two business reasons for bankers to be thankful this holiday season, the Senate’s proposed regulatory relief legislation and legislative efforts for tax reform.

The Senate Banking Committee has released the text of proposed legislation providing real regulatory relief to community banks.  With ten Republican co-sponsors and nine Democratic co-sponsors, the measure would appear to have better odds than prior regulatory reform actions.   That said, no action is expected until sometime in 2018, and we’re still a long way away from adopted legislation.  The proposed legislation provides for significant regulatory relief for community banks, including:

  • a regulatory “express lane” for community banks with sufficient leverage capital ratios;
  • a limited exemption from the brokered deposit restrictions for CDARS and other reciprocal deposits;
  • Volcker Rule relief for traditional banks will less than $10 billion in assets;
  • an increase in the Small Bank Holding Company Policy Statement threshold from $1 billion to $3 billion; and
  • an increase in the threshold for an 18-month exam cycle for healthy institutions from $1 billion to $3 billion.

Without attempting to predict how the tax reform legislation will ultimately end up, we also look at a few key provisions of the proposed house and senate versions of the Tax Cuts and Reforms Act.  One item discussed is the potential impact on deferred tax assets, including the likely hit to existing deferred tax asset valuations and the elimination of net operating loss carry-forwards going forward.  We also spend a fair amount of time addressing the need for all Subchapter S banks to begin the process of exploring the impact of the prospective reforms, particularly as it relates to the tax treatment for shareholders that are active in the bank’s management.  As Sub S elections have to be withdrawn by March 15th to be effective for the whole year, the time to start planning is now!

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All Dressed Up with No Place to Go

All Dressed Up with No Place to Go

November 3, 2017

Authored by: Robert Klingler

the-bank-accountOn the latest episode of The Bank Account, Jonathan and I discuss the prospects and alternatives for a small bank that finds itself without an interested buyer.   Frequently, we are finding clients and other depository institutions that have reached the internal decision that it’s time to sell, but when they check the market, the anticipated buyers are either not available, not interested, or at least not as interested as expected/hoped.

Before getting to those topics, we have a brief foray into me trying to avoid talking about college football, as well as updates on the proposed tax reform act and the announcement of the appointment of Jerome Powell to serve as Chair of the Federal Reserve Board.

Among the alternatives discussed:

  • A sale to a credit union;
  • A sale to a non-bank buyer;
  • A merger of equals, strategic merger, or stepping stone transaction; and
  • Longer term planning to set up the bank for a future sale.
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A Potpourri of Bank Regulatory News

On the latest episode of The Bank Account, Jonathan and I discuss a veritable hodgepodge of new regulatory pronouncements, including the CFPB’s small dollar loan rule and the OCC’s guidance on CRA ratings.  But before we got to the bank regulatory issues, Jonathan first had to seek my opinion on the new Florida Gator jerseys (pictured).  I’m actually fairly proud in my restraint.  For the handful of listeners who enjoy this banter, I encourage you to view these rejected Florida Gator uniforms.  For those that wish we’d stick with banking, I assure you my interest in discussing college football has reached another low after this weekend.

the-bank-accountWe also encourage our listeners to check out the American Bankers Association’s new podcast, the ABA Newsbytes Podcast.  While we’re happy for you to listen to our podcast over and over again, we recognize that it has diminished value starting with the third listen, and encourage you to explore other podcasts as well.

The potpourri of topics discussed include:

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