OCC to lower assessment fees despite surge in bank assets

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WASHINGTON — The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency says it will give national banks a break by using pre-pandemic asset levels to calculate assessment fees this upcoming September.

The OCC cited the sharp growth in bank assets during the early weeks of the novel coronavirus outbreak as the basis for what the regulator described in a press release Monday as a “one-time change.” Proposed as an interim final rule, the tweak is slated to stay in effect only until October — or one assessment.

“Banks have played an important role in the national response to COVID-19,” acting Comptroller of the Currency Brian Brooks said in the release. “As a result, many banks took on significant volumes of additional assets while providing relief to their customers as part of these federal programs. Banks should not be penalized by these efforts to support our national recovery.”

The OCC’s regulatory assessment fees, used to fund supervisory activity, are partly based on a bank’s size and charged twice a year, once in March and again in September.

The decision to use call report data from Dec. 31, 2019, rather than June 30, 2020, will “result in lower assessments for most banks under the jurisdiction of the OCC,” according to the text of the interim rule. However, in the event a bank’s reported assets are lower at the end of June than they were back in December, the OCC said it would use the most recent data.

Monday’s announcement is the latest instance of the national bank regulator trimming assessment costs: In both 2018 and 2019, the OCC permanently reduced its assessment fees for national banks by 10%, citing improvements in the agency’s operational efficiency.

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