On last day on job, outgoing acting comptroller finalizes ‘fair access’ rule – 10 days after comment period closes

A final “fair access” rule codifying that banks should conduct risk assessments of individual customers was issued Thursday by the national bank regulator, just 10 days after the comment period closed.

The rule takes effect April 1, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) said. It is generally aimed at blocking national banks from refusing to extend credit to oil and other energy companies out of a concern for the impact of their operations on the environment or climate change.

“When a large bank decides to cut off access to charities or even embassies serving dangerous parts of the world or companies conducting legal businesses in the United States that support local jobs and the national economy, they need to show their work and the legitimate business reasons for doing so,” said outgoing Acting Comptroller of the Currency Brian P. Brooks, who is scheduled to leave office today.

The agency said it considered more than 35,000 stakeholder comments and suggestions before finalizing the rule; the comment period ended Jan. 4.

Under the rule – which applies to banks with more than $100 billion in assets – covered banks must make the products and services they choose to offer available to all customers in the communities they serve, based on consideration of quantitative, impartial, risk-based standards established by the bank, according to the OCC. A covered bank’s decision to deny services, the agency said,  based on such objective assessment would not violate the bank’s obligation to provide fair access. However, a covered bank’s decision not to offer a specific kind of financial product or service or not to compete in a geographic market is unaffected.

According to the OCC, the final rule implements language included in Title III of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank). The agency said that provision charged it with “assuring the safety and soundness of, and compliance with laws and regulations, fair access to financial services, and fair treatment of customers by, the institutions and other persons subject to its jurisdiction.”

OCC Finalizes Rule Requiring Large Banks to Provide Fair Access to Bank Services, Capital, and Credit