As the battle over the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC)’s proposed financial technology (“fintech”) charter continues, investors in fintech companies should consider what it would mean for their business strategies if fintech companies actually did become banks. From an investor’s perspective, is there upside or downside to a fintech company becoming a bank?

Potentially, both.

First, there are advantages to status as a bank. In particular, it could liberate fintech companies from certain onerous state-by-state requirements, such as licensing requirements and interest rate limits. Especially for fintech companies whose businesses center on money transmission or consumer lending—activities that are particularly affected by these state laws—this could be a huge advantage.   Continue Reading What Investors in Fintech Companies Need to Know About ‘Fintech Banks’

Does a national bank have to take deposits in order to be a national bank?

That question is at the center of a federal lawsuit filed April 26 against the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) by the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS), the nationwide organization of state financial regulators. The action, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, aims to block the OCC’s ability to offer its proposed national bank charter for non-deposit-taking financial technology (“fintech”) companies. CSBS alleges, among other things, that the OCC’s statutory authority allows it to charter only banks that engage in the traditional banking activity of taking deposits, and that any authority to charter non-deposit-taking national banks is limited to such banks specifically authorized by Congress. Continue Reading States’ Lawsuit Over OCC Authority to Create New Charter Creates Bumps in the Road for Fintech Firms

For nonbank providers of consumer financial services, one of the most challenging parts of doing business is the need to comply with the laws of multiple states. Entities like money transmitters and consumer lenders typically must obtain licenses in the states in which they do business, and comply with an array of varying state laws. And for entities that are online or mobile in nature, the “states in which they do business” can mean all fifty states—plus the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. This has been the source of many operational challenges and frustrations for fintech companies and startups in recent years. Continue Reading OCC’s Fintech Charter Proposal: The End of State Licensing As We Know It? Comments Due April 14

As financial services innovators and financial technology (“FinTech”) have expanded over the last several years, a point of industry consensus is that the U.S. regulatory landscape in particular is challenging to, and in some cases poses a barrier to, innovation and new competition within the FinTech arena. Critics of the U.S. regulatory regime point to a confusing web of multiple federal functional regulators and state money transmission regulators. The sheer number of potential laws, rules, regulations and regulatory entities that can be involved in regulating a particular FinTech startup based upon the product and services provided are subject to increased scrutiny and criticism from the FinTech industry. Continue Reading U.S. FinTech Regulatory Landscape for 2017

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) made headlines last week by taking action against Dwolla, an online and mobile payments platform. The CFPB imposed a $100,000 penalty against Dwolla, and while the dollar amount of the penalty may appear to be small compared to other civil money penalties, the action is significant because it is the first action the CFPB has taken in the data security area and provides insight into future enforcement activities surrounding data security by the CFPB. It also serves as a notable reminder of the CFPB’s broad enforcement powers, which go beyond financial institutions to non-FI companies that deliver financial products and services to consumers. While the CFPB lacks authority over the substantive data security requirements that are enforced by the federal financial regulators, that poses no obstacle to the CFPB’s ability to take an action, like this, initiated under its authority to police “deceptive” acts or practices.

Continue Reading CFPB Takes First Data Security Enforcement Action Against Dwolla