Compliance failures in banking can often result in real harm to borrowers. In the case of Wells Fargo, a compliance error resulted in 400 of the bank’s customers losing their homes. Due to an issue in the bank’s software system, the institution denied loan modifications to borrowers who should have qualified. This latest failure adds to the myriad of issues Wells Fargo bungled over the past several months. For compliance professionals, the failure demonstrates the risks of automation in compliance, the importance of technical expertise, and the risks of decision-making without putting the interests of the customer first.
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.
Regulation in the financial sector is critical to preventing crimes that include fraud, money laundering tax evasion, human trafficking, aiding drug trafficking, and even financing terrorism. Despite the importance of regulation and banking institutions’ compliance with such regulations, many laws regarding money laundering are outdated and prevent efficient prevention of such crimes. Additionally, enforcement against large financial institutions is a difficult matter because of the harm that penalizing them could have on the economy.
The Trump administration is delivering on its promise to deregulate America. Since taking office, numerous regulations spanning everything from energy to health care have been repealed or weakened. The financial services industry is not immune to the deregulation movement. The Trump administration is acting through appointments, executive agencies, and legislation to deregulate the financial services industry. Proponents of deregulation claim the movement is needed after Dodd-Frank and strict post-financial crisis regulation. However, in deregulating financial services, the Trump Administration—and compliance professionals—should proceed cautiously.
In November of 2016 voters in California passed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act which legalized the sale and use of marijuana throughout the state, similarly to states such as Colorado and Washington. Starting January 1, 2018, it will be legal to go to a licensed dispensary and purchase marijuana for personal use, without needing a medical marijuana card. However, marijuana possession or use is still a federal offense; navigating the new law can be hazy.
Financial institutions often rely on outside vendors to provide information technology services. While doing so often provides economic efficiency and quicker technological innovation, the risks associated with outsourcing information technology services are significant. Institutions must develop strong vendor management programs to ensure the safety of their customer’s personal information. Several large financial institutions have come together to create a new consortium to perform vendor and partner due diligence.
Since its inception in 2010, The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has garnered its fair share of criticism and controversy. The regulator was created by the Dodd-Frank legislation to curb the practices and risks, which brought about the financial crisis of 2007-2008. The CFPB is often criticized by the banks and firms it regulates, but now a fellow federal regulator is casting doubt on the CFPB’s new rule concerning mandatory arbitration clauses found in contracts for commonly used banking products, such as checking accounts and credit cards. The rule is also opposed by Congress, which is working on measures to repeal the rule, and several financial industry and lobbying groups who are suing the CFPB.
In 2016, Congress introduced a bill to reform the National Flood Insurance Program. Proponents of the bill saw it as necessary reform to a debt-ridden and ineffective program, while opponents saw it as an attack against a necessary safeguard for coastal Americans. The National Flood Insurance Program was set to expire at the end of September 2016, until Congress extended the program through December 8, 2017. As Americans rebuild from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Congress contemplates reform and seeks to keep the program funded past December.