OCC to allow branch closures in areas hit by wildfires

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WASHINGTON — The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is allowing banks in California and Colorado to close branches to avoid unsafe conditions resulting from wildfires.

The OCC issued a proclamation Monday saying that national banks, federal savings associations and federal branches and agencies of foreign banks could close offices “at their discretion” if they are affected by fires in the two states.

“In issuing the proclamation, the OCC expects that only those bank offices directly affected by potentially unsafe conditions will close,” the OCC said in a press release. “Those offices should make every effort to reopen as quickly as possible to address the banking needs of their customers.”

The OCC directed banks to 2012 guidance on actions that can be implemented when a financial institution operates or has customers in areas affected by a natural disaster or other emergency.

The 2012 guidance encourages banks to waive or reduce ATM fees, temporarily waive late-payment fees or penalties for early withdrawal of savings for affected customers and work with borrowers to restructure debt obligations by altering payment terms.

The guidance also says banks should reassess the current credit needs of their communities and help meet those needs by originating or participating in sound loans to rebuild damaged property.

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Natural disasters OCC National banks California Colorado California fires