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EGRPRA CRA Comment Letter CBA NAAHL
May 13, 2015
Department of the Treasury,
Office of the Comptroller of the Currency;
12 CFR Chapter I; Docket ID FFIEC–2014–0001
Federal Reserve System; 12 CFR Chapter II; Docket No. R–1510 Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation; 12 CFR Chapter III
Re: Regulatory Publication and Review under the Economic Growth and
Regulatory Paperwork Reduction Act of 1996; Notice of regulatory review; request for comments.
Dear Sir or Madam:
On behalf of the Consumer Bankers Association (CBA) and the National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders (NAAHL), thank you for this opportunity to comment on the Economic Growth and Regulatory Paperwork Reduction Act review by the Federal Financial Institution Examination Council (FFIEC). We are limiting our comments to the provisions of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) regulations.
- Modernize CRA public file requirements
- Outdated and Unnecessary Requirements
The public file requirements of CRA are outdated in light of modern technology and the expectation of customers. They result in an unnecessary cost and burden to financial institutions, and the benefits they were intended to provide to consumers can be obtained using more streamlined approaches that benefit from modern technology and the everyday practices of consumers in the 21st Century.
As currently required an institution must make the CRA public file available to the public for inspection upon request and at no cost (1) At the main office and, if an interstate bank, at one branch office in each state, all information in the public file; and (2) At each branch, (i) a copy of the public section of the bank's most recent CRA Performance Evaluation and a list of services provided by the branch; and (ii) within five calendar days of the request, all the information in the public file relating to the assessment area in which the branch is located.
Upon request, a bank must provide copies, either on paper or in another form acceptable to the person making the request, of the information in its public file. The bank may charge a reasonable fee not to exceed the cost of copying and mailing (if applicable). The public file is defined to include, at least the following:
- All written comments received from the public for the current year and the previous two calendar years, and the bank’s responses;
- The public section of the most recent CRA Performance Evaluation
- A list of the bank’s branches and locations
- A list of branches, and locations, opened and closed in the current year and the prior two years
- A list of services generally offered at the bank’s branches
- A map of each assessment area
- A number of other items as appropriate, including, if the bank is a Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) reporter, a copy of the HMDA Disclosure Statement provided by the FFIEC for each of the prior two calendar years.
The CRA Q&A, which is the vehicle provided by the agencies to interpret the CRA regulations, provides some limited clarification regarding where and when the public file can be provided in electronic form. The Q&A (Q&A 43(b)(1)-2) states a bank may retain its CRA disclosure statement in electronic form in its Public File rather than in hard copy, it must still be able to “readily print” it when requested at the main office (or the single designated branch within each state). In each branch, it must be able to make the Public File information related to the assessment area in which the branch is located available within 5 calendar days in whatever format the consumer requests.
Although the Q&A (43(c)-2) states an institution may keep all or part of the Public File on an intranet or internet, all the rules for availability still apply. As it says, “The institution also must ensure that the information required to be maintained at a main office and branch, if kept electronically, can be readily downloaded and printed for any member of the public who requires a hard copy of the information.”
It is our experience few consumers ever request the Public File at branches or at the main office of an institution. The information is requested principally by other institutions that wish to compare their CRA performance, assessment areas, etc. with their peer institutions for competitive reasons. Occasionally, advocacy organizations will also request the file information. Neither of these needs—peer institutions or advocacy groups—require the Public File to be available in hard copy, or require procedures to make hard copy available on request or within 5 days through the mail. We understand and appreciate the need to make the Public File available to any consumers who wish to see it, even if they only do so on rare occasions. However, we believe any consumer who wishes to see an institution’s File would have no problem viewing it on line at his or her leisure, either using their own access devices or at a public library.
We recommend the FFIEC adopt a more streamlined approach to the CRA public file requirements by making it possible for each institution, at its option, to keep the required information on a web site, or otherwise available electronically, with clear notices at the branches identifying the locations where the information can be viewed. This is consistent with the CFPB’s recent proposal to eliminate the requirement to make HMDA data available for
inspection and copying at branches of HMDA-reporting institutions, and is eliminating the central repository requirement for the FFIEC.
HMDA’s public disclosure and availability requirements are based on a different set of statutory requirements from CRA. Nevertheless, it is similar to CRA in its requirement for institutions to make their banking information available for public viewing. Indeed, the HMDA LAR must be included with the CRA Public File disclosures.
Currently, Regulation C, which implements HMDA, requires a HMDA reporting financial institution to make its modified loan application register (LAR) available to the public for a period of three years and its disclosure statement available to the public for a period of five years. Regulation C, section 1003.5(d), also provides that an institution must make these disclosures available to the public for inspection and copying during the hours the office is normally open to the public for business and may impose a reasonable fee for any cost incurred in providing or reproducing the data.
As part of its proposal to amend Regulation C, the CFPB is proposing to delete the requirement that a financial institution make its HMDA data available for inspection and copying and to make additional technical modifications to § 1003.5(d). The CFPB believes that preserving this option is unnecessary and may be burdensome to financial institutions. It is proposing to modify
§ 1003.5(d) to delete reference to inspection and copying. If the proposal is adopted, a financial institution's disclosure statement would be available online and the notice advising of this fact would be available in every branch office located in an MSA or MD, rendering unnecessary the current § 1003.5(e) requirement that an institution provide the location of the office where the disclosure statement is available for inspection and copying or include the location in the posted notice.
The CFPB is also proposing similar changes to the current requirement for the FFIEC to maintaining central depositories for the public to inspect and copy all public HMDA files. It notes in the Proposal that the FFIEC has not made brick and mortar central depositories available since the early 2000’s, relying instead on the information available on its web site. The CFPB is proposing to amend Regulation C to make such availability sufficient for compliance with HMDA.
The CFPB’s rationale for eliminating these requirements and substituting the availability of information in electronic form is precisely the same as we are proposing for CRA. As the CFPB is proposing for HMDA, we would also recommend the notice requirements be altered commensurate with the change in availability requirements.
- Community Development Activities
We encourage the agencies to continue refining the treatment of community development activities under CRA through additional Q&A guidance and examination procedures. The 2013 Q&A guidance does represent progress in this area. However, these changes have not significantly affected banks’ decisions or improved communities’ access to resources because
too much uncertainty still remains regarding how examiners will implement them. We believe more progress is both essential and achievable, consistent with the need for CRA policy to carefully balance certainty, flexibility and responsiveness to performance context. We also continue to support the ongoing training of examiners so they are abreast of current and evolving community development practices.
Sincerely, Steven I. Zeisel
Executive Vice President and General Counsel Consumer Bankers Association firstname.lastname@example.org
Benson Roberts President and CEO
National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders email@example.com