New discussions in the U.S. Senate indicate a likely repeal of 2010’s controversial Dodd-Frank Act. Designed in response to the 2008 economic crisis, the Dodd-Frank Act implemented regulations on banks and lending agencies to provide greater financial stability and consumer protection. The fundamental purpose of Dodd-Frank was to increase oversight and transparency among financial institutions. However, the Dodd-Frank Act has been the target of much criticism, most notably that its imposed regulations stifle the growth of smaller institutions. As of March 2018, Senate discussions indicate an intent to lay the foundations to remove this regulation.
Following the 2016 Wells Fargo scandal in which the bank opened millions of unauthorized bank and credit card accounts to collect fees, federal regulators have worked to address and respond to the corporation’s illegal conduct. On February 2nd, 2018, the U.S. Federal Reserve imposed unprecedented restrictions against Wells Fargo & Co. when it capped the bank’s growth for 2018 such that it could not exceed the total assets owned at the end of 2017. This restriction marks a substantial departure from previous penalties issued for improper compliance. Changes in policies and procedures and this novel punishment reflect a notable shift in the national bank’s expectations of corporate directors.
Consistent with modern financial regulation, United States regulators are increasingly focusing upon individual accountability of corporate officers and directors. Once a regulatory agency contacts a corporation regarding an inquiry into the actions of its agents, it is the duty of the corporation to front the costs of legal defense and representation. Historically, corporate directors and officers liability insurance (“D&O”) covered the costs of legal defense and costs associated with the regulatory investigation. In light of the increasing government emphasis on individual liability within corporations, traditional D&O liability insurance is no longer guaranteed to protect corporate exposure to regulatory inquiry. As a result of these changes to corporate exposure, insurance agencies have begun to create novel insurance solutions to solve the problems created by the new regulatory policy.
In July of 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) Director, Richard Cordray, implemented a rule regulating the ability of banks to prohibit class-action lawsuits from being placed within the fine print of their consumer contracts. By the end of July, the House of Representatives voted to repeal the rule under the Congressional Review Act, which allows lawmakers to overturn any recently issued regulation by an executive agency. The Senate subsequently voted to repeal the rule after a 50-51 vote, where Mike Pence cast his vote to break the 50-50 tie. On November 1st, 2017, President Trump signed the bill repealing the regulation.
In September 2017, United States economic markets implemented swap-regulating rules to reduce risk to U.S. investment firms. Signed into law in 2016, this regulation curbs the risk associated with swap derivatives in the United States. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Financial Conduct Authority, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (the “Agencies”), constructed a joint rule requiring taxpayer-insured banks and financial institutions to collect greater collateral and provide greater transparency when involved in swap derivative agreements.