Don’t ignore regulative analysis of overdraft programs

As regulative attention to overdraft practices modifications and heightens, specialists recommend banks to dig deep in reassessing inadequate funds programs to enhance and reinforce their procedures and management.

By Christopher Delporte

The present bank overdraft policy environment is among extreme analysis, according to Jonathan Thessin, ABA’s VP and senior counsel, regulative compliance and policy. Regulatory companies are inspecting overdraft and nonsufficient funds costs and motivating banks to review their overdraft programs, homing in on those banks where these costs consist of, according to regulators, an out of proportion quantity of the banks’ charge income, specialists state.

CFPB Director Rohit Chopra stated previously this year that his bureau will act versus “large financial institutions whose overdraft practices violate the law” and will focus on assessment of banks that are “heavily reliant” on overdraft. Acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael Hsu took a comparable though softer tone, warning banks: “You don’t want to be the last bank with a traditional overdraft system.”

During ABA’s current Risk and Compliance Conference, Thessin, in addition to fellow panelist Aaron Rykowski, EVP, primary compliance officer of WesBanco, headquartered in Wheeling, West Virginia, explained the analysis of particular overdraft practices and how banks must reassess their overdraft programs.

The most typical practices targeted by regulative bodies for claims and enforcement actions are nonsufficient funds costs on re-presented deals and overdraft costs arising from “authorize positive, settle negative” deals. With NSF costs, banks might charge a nonsufficient funds charge on a deal (such as a check) that is re-presented due to nonpayment the very first time the deal is started. The deal is resubmitted by the merchant and provides once again versus an unfavorable balance, for which the bank charges a 2nd NSF charge.

With APSN, a very first deal is licensed on favorable funds. In the meantime, a 2nd shift posts to the consumer’s account, which decreases the offered balance. When the very first deal posts, it does so versus unfavorable funds and the consumer sustains an overdraft charge.

Sufficient procedures for nonsufficient costs

With NSF, companies have actually stated that they are taking a look at banks for both deceptiveness and unfairness in banks’ practices. In spring 2022, the FDIC released supervisory highlights that stated charging several NSF costs when the very same deal exists several times for payment versus inadequate funds in a client’s account might be “deceptive” or “unfair” under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act. To Thessin’s understanding, the FDIC has actually mentioned banks for deceptiveness, not unfairness, associated to this practice. Under a Financial Institution Letter released in August 2022, the FDIC specified its expectation that banks will self-identify and fix infractions. Examiners will normally not point out unreasonable or misleading acts or practices infractions that have actually been self-identified and completely fixed prior to the start of a customer compliance assessment. The FDIC likewise accepted a two-year “lookback period” for restitution in evaluations. (Significantly, 3 days after this panel conversation, the FDIC modified its FIL to get rid of the lookback expectation unless there is a “likelihood of substantial consumer harm.”)

More just recently, the CFPB and OCC participated in different however associated authorization orders with a big bank in which the companies specified that the bank’s practice of charging several NSF costs for represented deals was an unjust practice—a finding that exceeded the FDIC’s concentrate on deceptiveness.

During the panel, Thessin advised that banks evaluate their account contracts to identify if they require to be reinforced to prevent a deceptiveness finding. To prevent an unfairness finding—which switches on whether the 2nd NSF charge was “reasonably avoidable”—Thessin advised banks supply several methods for clients to inspect account balances and evaluate the bank’s procedures for recommending clients of NSF costs.

“It’s in your interest to look at your processes for notifying customers of a low account balance, notifying of an NSF fee,” he stated. “Most [banks]send letters, but also use text alerts and email.” Thessin continued: “If you’re scrutinized by regulators, you have all these ways to notify the customer that they’ve been assessed an NSF fee.” Thessin likewise specified that banks must “explain to examiners the significant logistical challenge of conducting a look-back.”

Regulators validate the possible unfairness finding by specifying that the consumer doesn’t understand when a merchant is going to recycle the deal, Rykowski discussed, however banks might not have that intel either.

“Banks don’t know either, right?” Rykowski stated. “It could be a couple of days. It could be four days—or four weeks. We really don’t know when they’re going to send it back or how. The merchant could try to send it through as a paper check the first time and convert it to an ACH the second time. Logistically, we don’t necessarily know that’s the same transaction.”

APSN: All about disclosures

For APSN, the method taken by regulative companies has actually developed over the last couple of years. Going back to 2015-2016, regulators—the OCC, FDIC and CFPB—explained the problems as one including possible deceptiveness—that the companies will point out a bank for deceptiveness if clients are not offered appropriate disclosures of when they will be examined an overdraft charge. In 2016, the Federal Reserve Board took a various method and explained it as matter of unfairness, because the consumer cannot “reasonably avoid” these overdraft costs. In 2022, the CFPB got in an approval contract with a big bank and 2 weeks later on released a circular in which the company took the position that these licensed favorable, settle unfavorable overdraft costs are unreasonable. The FDIC and OCC followed this spring, specifying that APSN is an unjust practice, utilizing language extremely comparable to the CFPB.

“The clear takeaway is that regulators are pushing banks to bring on solutions so that you don’t charge the customer [an overdraft]fee under these fact patterns,” Thessin stated, prompting banks to check out present supplier options. “I will caution any of you who have tried to implement a solution: It’s a lengthy process. It takes more than weeks and months. And so, as you talk to your regulators, if you’re receiving scrutiny, emphasize that this is not a simple fix. I’ve talked to bankers who said, ‘It knocks out custom coding; it’s a multi-month—if not more than a yearlong—process to implement the solution.’ So that’s a real point to emphasize to your regulator. The takeaway from all four regulators is that banks need to be changing their practices now.”

Rykowski highlighted the continued significance of precise disclosures. It’s crucial, Rykowski kept in mind, that while there requires to be a degree of individual obligation on the part of the customer, from an useful perspective, taking a look at it from the banks and regulator viewpoint, it’s about disclosure. The FDIC, the Fed and OCC still focus more on disclosure and account contracts, and discussing to customers how their account is going to work, he included.

“We’ve revamped our disclosures based on all the guidance over the past several years, so that we’re describing in detail in our account agreement how an APSN transaction could potentially occur,” he discussed. “This is how you can be overdrawn. This is how we will assess a fee. And we did that in concert with our overdraft program disclosure. The CFPB doesn’t focus as much on disclosure; they just think the practice is inherently unfair because of that inability to avoid the fee.” But, Rykowski continued, “We know it’s completely avoidable through proper account management of different types of alerts and different types of account management tools. But disclosure really goes a long way.”

Being persistent about what disclosures state and ensuring they associate real practices is “the biggest thing” to resolve from a risk-management viewpoint, Rykowski recommended, including that regulators are evaluating these problems based upon present publications, circulars and advisory viewpoints. Rykowski kept in mind that, in a couple of years, “if there’s a change in the White House, or a change in [an agency]director, by the stroke of a pen, these can all go away. So, from a disclosure perspective, do yours accurately describe what these transactions are going to do when they hit your customer’s account?”


A news media journalist always on the go, I've been published in major publications including VICE, The Atlantic, and TIME.

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