UPDATED: As extended comment period for CRA rules rewrite comes to a close, agency claims more than 7,400 letters received (it’s actually more like 1,350)

More than 7,400 comment letters on a proposal to reform regulations implementing anti-redlining laws were received by the federal regulator of national banks as the comment period came to close April 8, the agency reported April 9.

However, a closer look at the total of comment letters received and posted by Regulations.gov (a federal government web-based portal supporting the federal rulemaking process), total comments received on the most recent joint notice of proposed rule making by the extended comment due day  of April 8 was only 1,353.

In a “thank you” press release to the commenters, Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting said the close of the comment period “is another important milestone in a decade-long process” to reform rules for the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA).

“I have already read many of the comments and appreciate the thoughtfulness and support for updating regulations that have not changed significantly since 1995,” Otting wrote. “We will begin reviewing those comments, which we will consider carefully in developing a final rule.”

The discrepancy between the number quoted by the comptroller, and the actual number posted on the federal regulatory website, is likely due different methods of counting. The OCC is likely counting all of the comments that have been collected over the “decade-long process” Otting mentioned in his quote.

In September 2018, the OCC opened a comment period on an advance notice of proposed rule making (ANPR) about CRA rules; the comment period closed Nov. 19. That ANPR generated 1,587 comments.

In January, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) proposed a sweeping reform of the CRA rules for banks and savings associations. The proposal, according to the FDIC, would create more descriptive and expansive criteria for the types of activities that qualify for CRA credit. It would provide “defined criteria” that identify the types of activities that meet the credit needs of banks’ communities and, thus, can be considered qualifying activities. “These criteria would both encompass the many activities that currently qualify for CRA consideration and include additional activities that meet the credit needs of banks’ communities, such as expanding credit to areas considered distressed or underserved and ‘Indian country,’” the agency said.

Second, the proposal would require both the FDIC and the OCC to publish periodically a list of non-exhaustive, illustrative examples of qualifying activities; and establish a process for stakeholders to seek agency determination if an activity is a qualifying activity.

The proposal would also establish new performance standards to evaluate banks that are not small banks. According to the FDIC, small banks, as defined in the proposal, would have assets of $500 million or less in each of the previous four calendar quarters (to be increased for inflation annually). Small banks could select to either be evaluated under the current small bank performance standards; or opt in to the proposal’s new performance standards.

The proposal was initially issued with a 60-day comment period. The two agencies – after congressional and some public pressure – added 30 days to that period in late February, pushing the due date to April 8.

According to Regulations.gov, total comments received as of the first comment due date (March 9) was 765. However, following intense criticism from members of Congress (and others), the OCC agreed to extend the comment period to April 8. By then, according to Regulations.gov, the comment total swelled to 1,353.

Together, the 2018 and 2020 comments total under 3,000 (2,940) received.

Last week, Otting and FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams were urged by House Financial Services Committee Democrats to suspend their efforts to revise the CRA rules during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The lawmakers also urged that after this crisis passes, the OCC and the FDIC work with the Federal Reserve to develop a new joint proposal “that is consistent with the purpose of the Community Reinvestment Act.”

Comptroller of the Currency Thanks Stakeholders for Comments on the Proposal to Modernize Community Reinvestment Act Regulations

RR: House panel Dems urge suspending CRA rule rewrite amid pandemic; want OCC, FDIC to work on new joint proposal with the Fed later (April 8, 2020)