OPEN FOR COMMENT

Farm Credit National Charters

A proposal by the Farm Credit Administration that would permit any of the 133 Farm Credit regional lenders to apply for a national charter, permitting them to lend beyond their current regional boundaries. Published Feb. 16. Comments due March 19.

Merchant Banking Capital

A joint proposal by federal banking regulators that would institute capital requirements for banks' merchant banking activities. The plan, which is a reversal of the Federal Reserve Board's controversial first attempt last year, would employ a sliding scale based on each banking organization's aggregate equity investments and Tier 1 capital. It would require them to hold 8 cents for every $1 of equity investments up to 15% of Tier 1 capital and 12 cents for every $1 of investments for the next 10%. For investments exceeding 25% of Tier 1 capital, banks would have to hold 25 cents for every $1. Published Feb. 14. Comments due April 16.

Basel Committee I

Guidelines by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision for banks' "customer due diligence" that lay out a framework of regulatory protections for financial institutions against money laundering and other financial crimes. The paper praises private-sector efforts to combat money laundering, but says that voluntary initiatives are insufficient. The paper, issued Jan. 31, is available on the Basel Committee's Web site, www.bis.org. Comments due March 31.

National Bank Revisions

A proposal by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency for seven revisions in regulations that govern the activities of national banks. Among other things, the revisions, which the agency said are designed to bring regulations into line with new laws, would give national banks the authority to underwrite, deal in, and buy certain municipal bonds, as permitted by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999. Published Jan. 30. Comments due April 2.

Basel Committee II

A proposal by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision to revise international bank capital rules. The proposal, which expands on an earlier draft, would let banks use their internal rating systems to help set regulatory capital and would also impose a new capital charge for operational risk. The paper, released Jan. 16, is available on the Basel Committee's Web site, www.bis.org. Comments due May 31.

New Bank Powers I

A proposal by the Fed that would give financial holding companies the right to act as real estate brokers and managers. This would be among the first sets of new powers authorized as "financial in nature" under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999. Published Jan. 3. Comment period extended to May 1.

Predatory Lending I

A proposal by the Fed to toughen measures against abusive lending practices. The plan would reduce the annual percentage rate on mortgages covered by the Home Mortgage and Equity Protection Act to 8 percentage points above the rate for Treasury securities. The current threshold is 10 points. The proposal also would include the cost of single-premium credit life insurance as part of the points-and-fees test under the act. Published Dec. 19. Comments due March 16.

The Fed also issued a proposal Nov. 29 that would help the government identify more predatory lenders. Lenders would have to disclose the annual percentage rates on all loans as part of their Home Mortgage Disclosure Act reports. Published Dec. 14. Comments due Friday.

RECENT ACTIONS

Aggregation Guidelines

The OCC issued guidelines March 2 for banks in the account aggregation business. The guidelines stress the need for banks to maintain information security and customer privacy in every stage of transactions and data transmission.

Application Process

The Office of Thrift Supervision issued a rule March 2 that streamlines the application processes for mergers, charter applications, and conversions. The regulation will go into effect next month and requires applicants to provide more information earlier in the process.

ATM Fee Disclosures

The Fed published a rule March 1 that forces ATM operators that impose a fee for transactions to disclose that prominently on or near the machine by Oct. 1. The rule implements a provision of Gramm-Leach-Bliley that requires ATM operators to disclose the amount of the fee before customers are committed to making a transaction.

Privacy

Bank and thrift regulators have indefinitely delayed a rule governing disclosures about data sharing among affiliates. The rule, which had been expected in the next few weeks, is supposed to clarify provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1996 and their relation to privacy requirements in Gramm-Leach-Bliley.

Thrift Holding Companies

The OTS on Feb. 14 dropped its controversial thrift holding company proposal that would have required some of those companies to notify the agency 30 days before significantly increasing debt, reducing capital substantially, or acquiring certain assets. The proposal would also have established criteria the agency would use to evaluate holding company capital.

GSE Critical Capital

The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight announced Feb. 13 that it will add a capital measurement to its quarterly capital classifications for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Starting in its fourth-quarter 2000 report, the companies' "critical capital level" will be disclosed.

ACTIONS EXPECTED SOON

Deposit Insurance Reform

The FDIC is expected to offer proposals on deposit insurance reform by late March. The agency is expected to release a Gallup poll about consumer attitudes toward the coverage limit soon. The FDIC has already released an "options paper" detailing possible legislative changes in the nature and size of the insurance funds, the pricing of premiums, and the amount of coverage. Released Aug. 8. Available at www.fdic.gov.

Insurance Sales

Federal regulators are expected to give financial institutions involved in insurance sales an extra six months to comply with consumer protection rules mandated by Gramm-Leach-Bliley. The 1999 law required banks and thrifts that advertise, solicit, or sell insurance to warn consumers that insurance products are not federally insured, and that they do not have to purchase insurance to get a loan. It also required, among other things, physical separation of banking and nonbanking activities inside branches. Regulators issued rules in November, telling financial companies to start alerting consumers by April 1.

Pooling of Interests

The Financial Accounting Standards Board announced Dec. 6 that it had reached a "tentative decision" to modify a controversial September 1999 proposal that would bar the so-called pooling-of-interests method of accounting for mergers and acquisitions. The revision would let companies carry goodwill on their books as an asset unless it became "impaired" - indicating a decline in value. Any impairment of goodwill would have to be charged against earnings. A final rule is expected no earlier than the end of March.

COMMENTS CLOSED

Credit Union Incidental Powers

A proposal by the National Credit Union Administration to include Internet banking services, individual retirement accounts, and stored-value products such as prepaid phone cards among products that federally chartered credit unions may offer as "incidental" to their main business. Published Nov. 24. Comments were due Feb. 22.

New Bank Powers II

Interim rule by the Fed and the Treasury Department that establishes procedures for granting new powers to financial holding companies and financial subsidiaries of national banks under Gramm-Leach-Bliley. The law directed the agencies to treat as financial in nature activities in three broadly defined categories. The rule says that a financial holding company, or financial subsidiary, must formally ask the agencies to determine whether a particular activity falls into one of these categories and is permissible. Effective Jan. 2. Comments were due Feb. 2.

Predatory Lending II

Guidelines issued Nov. 20 by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to help banks avoid the purchase of predatory loans, either directly or in securitized pools. The guidelines recommended that banks investigate the loan originator's reputation, practices, underwriting policies, and compliance programs. Published on the agency's Web site at www.fdic.gov. Comments were due Jan. 31.

Capital Requirements

A preliminary proposal by the banking and thrift agencies that would simplify capital requirements for community banks. The proposal includes three options for calculating capital: a standard capital-to-assets leverage ratio, a simplified risk-based ratio, and a modified leverage ratio that includes risk-based elements. Most banks in the country would probably be eligible. Published Nov. 3. Comments were due Feb. 1.

Thrift Bylaws

A proposal by the OTS to create optional bylaws that savings associations could adopt without regulatory approval. Published Nov. 2. Comments were due Jan. 2.

GSE Study

A proposal by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight to study the financial risks Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would pose if either government-sponsored enterprise failed or significantly cut back its activities. Published Oct. 30. Comments were due Jan. 29.

Subprime Residuals

A proposal by the banking and thrift agencies that would require banks to keep $1 of capital for every $1 of subprime residuals. The proposal also would limit the concentration of residuals to 25% of Tier 1 capital.

A residual, also known as a retained interest, is the interest a bank keeps when it securitizes and sells pools of loans. Published Sept. 27. Comments were due Dec. 26.

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