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Regulatory Supervision of Third Party Service Providers

the-bank-accountWith Jonathan and I attending the Georgia Bankers Association’s 125th Annual Meeting, Bryan Cave colleagues Ken Achenbach and Sean Christy broke into our podcasting studio to record an episode of The Bank Account looking at vendor negotiations through a regulatory lens.

The FDIC’s Office of Inspector General’s Report on Technology Service Provider Contracts provides another source of regulatory guidance that needs to be considered while negotiating vendor contracts.  Ken and Sean look at the evolving state and federal framework of regulatory oversight of service providers, and how banks should adopt to this framework in contract negotiations.

You can follow Sean on Twitter at @SeanChristy.  Ken doesn’t need Twitter; he’s already following you.

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The Financial CHOICE Act and Shareholder Engagement

The Financial CHOICE Act introduced in the House this spring has largely garnered attention because of its rollback of Dodd-Frank, but the bill would also significantly change the rules governing shareholder resolutions for public companies. Currently, the restrictions are relatively modest, requiring that investors have at least $2,000 in stock or one percent of the stock at a company in order to be eligible to file resolutions. In contrast, the CHOICE Act would limit eligibility for proposing shareholder resolutions to investors that have held at least one percent of the company’s stock for a minimum of three years. This change would drastically limit who can file resolutions, given that one percent of the shares of larger companies could translate to millions or billions of dollars.

The timing of the proposed change potentially reducing shareholder engagement contrasts with recent shareholder decisions approving shareholder resolutions, as demonstrated by votes at Occidental Petroleum and ExxonMobil. Shareholder majorities at those companies, exercising their rights as owners, required Occidental and Exxon to disclose the risks climate change poses to their businesses and how the companies are preparing to respond to those risks. Although these votes were historic, they are not entirely surprising; surveys show that investors are significantly interested in the business impact of regulation and are dissatisfied with current disclosure practices when it comes to environmental and climate change risks.  Moreover, some research shows that corporations that adopt the kinds of disclosure practices demanded by shareholders are better at managing long term risk and adapt to changes more quickly.

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Convenience vs. Compliance: Behavior-Driven Marketing of Credit Products

the-bank-account Bryan Cave colleague Ken Achenbach joined Jonathan and me on the latest episode of The Bank Account for a discussion of the potential compliance issues associated with a behavior-driven marketing focus within financial services.  To borrow the immortal words of Salt-N-Pepa, should banks “Push it?  Push it real good?”

While new app technologies are allowing banks to market in new ways, we analyze many of the ways in which behavior-driven marketing already permeates our culture, and why financial services-based behavior-driven marketing may be treated differently.  Some of the articles referenced on the podcast include:

You can also follow us on Twitter with Jonathan at @HightowerBanks and me at @RobertKlingler.  Ken cannot be followed on Twitter, as Ken’s thoughts cannot be limited to 140 characters.

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Preserving Deferred Tax Assets in a Capital Raise

the-bank-accountOn the latest episode of The Bank Account, Jonathan and I discuss the ability of bank holding companies to raise capital while preserving valuable deferred tax assets.

Section 382 of the Internal Revenue Code triggers a limitation on the carry-forward of net operating losses and built-in losses in the event of an “ownership change” in the company.  However, Section 382’s definition of what constitutes an ownership change is very different than many interpretations of a change in control.  Various segregation and aggregation rules can result in an ownership change being triggered when one might not expect it, but can also permit, with advanced planning, significant capital raises without triggering an ownership change.  This podcast provides a high level overview of some of the intricacies involved in Section 382, and offers insight as to how some of the recent large recapitalizations have preserved valuable deferred tax assets.

I think Jonathan and I broke several rules of good podcasting on this episode in that we discuss (1) numbers, (2) math, and (3) the tax code.  However, we think and hope that we’ve done so in an informative manner.  Enjoy!

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If the Shoe Fits, Wear It – Bank Third Party Vendors as Institution-Affiliated Parties

When negotiating bank third party vendor contracts it is not unusual to ask the vendor to acknowledge in the contract that bank regulators might exercise some sort of supervision over the vendor. Vendors will oftentimes push back on that point, claiming that since they are not a bank the FDIC has no jurisdiction over their affairs. We typically respond that “if the shoe fits, wear it.”

The fit arises because of the definition of “institution-affiliated party” (“IAP”). The definition was added under FIRREA when the regulatory agencies were seeking additional authority to impose sanctions against lawyers, accountants and appraisers whose negligence may have contributed to the failure of a bank. The language added to the statute is broader than just those professionals and covers any shareholder, consultant joint venture party, any other person determined by the appropriate federal banking agency (by regulation or case-by case) who participates in the conduct of the affairs of the bank and any independent contractor who knowingly or recklessly participates in any violation of law or regulation, any breach of fiduciary duty or any unsafe or unsound practice which caused or is likely to cause more than a minimal financial loss to the bank. (12 USC 1813(u))

The practical application of being designated an IAP was recently driven home in an enforcement action the FDIC took against Bank of Lake Mills, Freedom Stores, Inc. and Military Credit Services, Inc. All three parties entered into Consent Orders with the FDIC. The Bank agreed to fund restitution of $3,000,000 and to pay a civil money penalty of $151,000 while Freedom Stores, Inc. agreed to pay a penalty of $54,000 and Military Credit Services agreed to pay a penalty of $37,000.

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The CFPB’s Small Business Lending Data Request

the-bank-accountOn the latest episode of The Bank Account, Jonathan and I discuss the CFPB’s request for comments regarding information about the small business lending market.

Section 1071 of the Dodd-Frank Act amended the Equal Credit Opportunity Act to require financial institutions to compile, maintain and report information concerning credit applications made by women-owned, minority-owned and small businesses.  In connection with this obligation, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is now seeking comments to identify, among other things, how to define small business lending, what business lending data is currently easily available, and what kinds of institutions should be obligated to make such reports.

Jonathan and I discuss the need for the depository industry to provide comments in response to this request.

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Bryan Cave Continues Support for Corporate Sustainability

Bryan Cave participated in a daylong conference at Fordham University exploring opportunities and challenges that participants in the capital markets face as they look to harness the power of corporate sustainability data.  Alongside Bryan Cave attorneys, the event featured voices from academia, leading investment firms as well as ESG rating and research agencies.  The conference was jointly presented by Fordham Law School and Fordham’s Gabelli School of Business.

The conference, “The Corporate Sustainability Movement: The Flood of Data,” gathered a diverse audience and presented perspectives on this theme from users (the investors), providers (the companies and reporting agencies), as well as exploring innovation and ideals for how disclosure can enhance the market. To find out more about the conference, visit the organizer’s website.

Ken Henderson, partner in Bryan Cave’s New York office, moderated a lively panel to discuss the current state of corporate sustainability and ESG data disclosure, what the experts envision as the ideal standard and expectation of reporting (both for the benefit of investors, companies and other stakeholders), and the potential roadmaps to reach this goal.  Harnessing the perspectives of panelists whose backgrounds include experience as reporting and research agents and financial advisors and investors, Ken kept up a lively debate and integrated particular insights and questions from the audience into the discussion.

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Before You Comment on My Haircut, Think Again

Back in 2008 and 2009 Eddie Liles lent around $102,000 to his brother Dallas to purchase rental properties at 554 South Shore Drive and 540 South Shore Drive in Greenup County, Kentucky, as well as a 2008 Ford 4×4 truck.  The brothers signed a Loan Agreement that provided the loan would be interest free and that the loan for 554 South Shore Drive to be repaid first, followed by the loan for the truck, and finally the loan for the 540 South Shore Drive. The Loan Agreement called for Dallas to make payments of “ [a] minimum of $600.00 per year,” which it specified could be “multi-payments or one payment of $600.00.” It was also clear that Dallas could pay more than $600 per year towards the indebtedness, if he so desired.

The Loan Agreement also provided that if Dallas died, any outstanding balance would be forgiven. If, however, Dallas survived Eddie and the loan remained unsatisfied, the property would revert to Eddie. If both men died at the same time, and before satisfaction of the loan, the property was to pass to John B. Liles, II, or his estate. Eddie filed the Loan Agreement for record with the Greenup County Clerk and Dallas began making payments. As of early 2011 when the brothers had a falling out, Dallas had reduced the indebtedness to $89,400.

According to an affidavit filed by Dallas, the impetus for the falling out was an argument the two had in January of 2011 about a haircut. The argument was bad enough that the two were no longer communicated except for filing legal pleadings. Eddie refused to accept any more installment payments from Dallas and demand payment in full. Dallas refused but continued to make installment payments into an escrow account. Eddie filed suit and later sought summary judgment on the basis that he had full rights to demand payment in full. The circuit court determined that the loan was not a demand obligation and Eddie appealed.

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Georgia Supreme Court Weighs in On Guarantor Liability for Deficiencies

On April 17, 2017, the Supreme Court of Georgia made yet another critical decision in a line of cases which together, create the framework for a guarantor’s liability for a deficiency after a foreclosure has been conducted. The case styled York et al. v. Res-GA LJY, LLC came before the Supreme Court in consideration of the questions of (i) the extent and limitations of guarantor waiver of rights under O.C.G.A. §44-14-161; and (ii)  whether a creditor may pursue a guarantor for a deficiency after judicial denial of confirmation of a foreclosure sale.

In York et al., the lender sought to confirm the foreclosure sale of real property located in three different counties in Georgia, which properties were used to secure five promissory notes evidencing loans made to several entities and guaranteed by individual guarantors affiliated with such entities. The court in each of the three counties denied the confirmation of the respective sale citing as the basis for such denial, the lender’s failure to prove that the sale garnered fair market value, as is required under O.C.G.A. § 44-14-161. Despite its lack of success at the confirmation proceedings, the lender pursued deficiency actions against the guarantors. The trial court in awarding judgment against the guarantors, concluded that the waiver provisions of the guaranties executed by the guarantors served to waive any defense that the guarantors may have had as a result of lender’s failure to successfully seek confirmation. On appeal, the trial court’s judgment against the guarantors was affirmed.

In Georgia, to pursue a borrower for a deficiency after a foreclosure, a lender is required to file a confirmation action within thirty (30) days after foreclosure and present (i) evidence that the successful bidder at the foreclosure sale bid at least the “true market value” for the property and (ii) evidence regarding the legality of the notice and advertisement and regularity of the sale.  See O.C.G.A. § 44-14-161.

The Georgia Court of Appeals issued its decision in HWA Properties, Inc. v. Community & Southern Bank, 322 Ga. App. 877 (746 SE2d 609) (2013) in July of 2013, finding that a creditor’s failure to obtain a valid confirmation of a foreclosure sale did not impair its authority to obtain a deficiency judgment against the loan’s personal guarantor if the guarantor waived the defenses otherwise available to the guarantor under O.C.G.A. § 44-14-161.  In 2016, the Georgia Supreme Court addressed two questions regarding this issue certified to it by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia and agreed with the Court of Appeals in its reasoning, holding that Georgia’s confirmation statute “is a condition precedent to the lender’s ability to pursue a guarantor for a deficiency after foreclosure has been conducted, but a guarantor retains the contractual ability to waive the condition precedent requirement”.  See PNC Bank National Ass’n v. Smith, 298 Ga. 818, 824 (758 SE2d 505) (2016).

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ESOPs: A Path to Bank Independence

the-bank-accountEmployee Stock Ownership Plans offer an opportunity for banks to offer an attractive employee benefit plan, but can also do so much more.  On the latest episode of The Bank Account, Jonathan and I are joined by Bryan Cave Partner, Steve Schaffer, to discuss the advantages to banks considering implementing an ESOP.

Steve describes many of the advantages of implementing an ESOP, including allowing for smooth transitions of ownership for independent banks.  We also discuss some of the risks and the best means to avoid those risks.

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