A number of banks have been caught by surprise in recent compliance exams by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. with respect to an alleged violation of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act involving marital status.

It began when an FDIC representative spoke at a Massachusetts Bankers Association event in October and informed the attending banks of the agency's view of the potential ECOA violation. Obviously, this event was directed at Massachusetts banks, but not all were there. Since then, there has been no official guidance from FDIC to other banks, whether located in or out of that state, about this issue. However, FDIC examiners are now citing it as a "significant violation" in compliance exams in Massachusetts and other states, advising that the violation may be referred to the Department of Justice for action and required to be disclosed in a bank's CRA Exam Report (which is available to the public). Although it began in Massachusetts, it appears that the examiners may be looking for this violation nationwide.

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