Buried in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act, which is expected to be passed by Congress and signed by the President today, are revisions to the Bankruptcy Code that are relevant to creditors dealing with distressed debtors. Most notably, the bill will impact the recently-enacted Small Business Reorganization Act of 2019 (the “SBRA”) by increasing the potential pool of qualified debtors.

The SBRA, which just went into effect in mid-February, adds to the Bankruptcy Code a subchapter V, which allows small business owners certain advantages to reorganize their debt. The current debt limit for eligibility for cases under the new subchapter V is $2,725,625. The CARES Act will increase the eligibility threshold to $7.5 million in total debt, but only for one year, at which time it will revert back to the present limit.
Continue Reading How The CARES Act Will Impact Small Business Bankruptcies

Over the years, much has been written about the Bankruptcy Code’s treatment of small businesses, and the American Bankruptcy Institute Commission’s testimony to Congress this summer made clear that the existing law fell short of providing necessary relief for small businesses. For example, of the 18,000 small business bankruptcy cases filed between 2008 and 2015, less than 27% of those cases resulted in confirmed plans of reorganization. And these numbers excluded countless small businesses that, for a variety of reasons, did not or could not seek bankruptcy relief. See Robert J. Keach, ABI Testifies on Family Farmers and Small Business Reorganizations, XXXVIII ABI Journal 8, 8-9, August 2019, available at https://www.abi.org/abi-journal/abi-testifies-on-family-farmers-and-small-business-reorganizations (subscription required). 
Continue Reading New Bankruptcy Laws Offer Hope for Small Businesses, Family Farmers and Service Members

Starting now, all creditors must exercise more caution when trying to collect against discharged bankruptcy debtors, because a creditor’s good faith belief that the discharge injunction did not apply is no longer a viable defense. On Monday, June 3, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court clarified the standard for awarding sanctions against a creditor for violation of the discharge injunction, unanimously holding that a court may hold a creditor in civil contempt for violating a discharge order if there is “no fair ground of doubt” that the discharge order barred the creditor’s conduct.  Taggart v. Lorenzen, 587 U.S. __ (2019).

Bradley Taggart (“Taggart”) owned an interest in an Oregon company called Sherwood Park Business Center (“Sherwood”). In 2007, Sherwood and some of the other owners filed a lawsuit against Taggart in state court, claiming that Taggart had breached Sherwood’s operating agreement. On the eve of the state court trial, Taggart filed a voluntary petition for relief under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code. At the conclusion of his bankruptcy case, Taggart received an order granting him a discharge under Section 727 of the Bankruptcy Code “from all debts that arose before the date of the order for relief” (subject to certain exceptions that are not relevant here). Section 524 of the Bankruptcy Code explains that a discharge order “operates as an injunction” that bars creditors from collecting any debt that has been discharged. In Taggart’s case, any damages that would have resulted from the state court litigation were subject to the discharge. 
Continue Reading Creditor Beware: Supreme Court Rejects “Good Faith” Defense to Violations of Bankruptcy Discharge Orders

One of the key provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act rollback law signed by President Trump on May 24, 2018, hasn’t met its early promise for U.S. community banks. Recently proposed rules to implement simplified capital requirements have fallen short of the industry’s expectations when the bank deregulation law was enacted in May.

On November 21, 2018, the Federal Reserve Board, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency jointly announced a proposed rule to simplify capital requirements for qualifying community banking organizations that opt into the community bank leverage ratio framework. The agencies are seeking public comment on a proposal that would simplify regulatory capital requirements for qualifying community banking organizations, as required by the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (S. 2155 regulatory reform bill). 
Continue Reading Community Banks Disappointed with Federal Regulators’ Proposed Community Bank Leverage Ratio

Co-Authored by Erin Fonte and Brenna McGee

Continuing from last week’s post, here is the second half of our “Top 10 List” of key issues U.S. financial institutions, non-banks providing financial services, and financial technology (fintech) entities should plan for and watch throughout 2019.

  1. OCC Fintech Charter

On July 31, 2018, after several years of discussion, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) announced that it is accepting applications for special purpose national bank charters for fintech companies. Long anticipated by the fintech industry and opposed by multiple state regulators, the OCC fintech charter could potentially alter the financial services landscape for nondepository financial institutions. For fintech companies serving customers in multiple states, the OCC fintech charter could reduce the administrative and compliance challenges posed by the existing patchwork of state licensing requirements. But it comes at a steep cost because fintech companies would have to meet the stricter, bank-like regulatory requirements associated with a bank charter. 
Continue Reading Crumpets, Congress, Cannabis and Crypto: Top 10 Issues for Financial Services in 2019 – Part 2

Co-Authored by Erin Fonte and Brenna McGee

As an eventful 2018 comes to a close, we look ahead to 2019 and our “Top 10 List” of key issues U.S. financial institutions, non-banks providing financial services, and financial technology (fintech) entities should plan for and watch throughout the upcoming year. The first five items on the list are discussed below, and the remainder of our list will follow shortly in another post.

  1. Brexit

We will start the list with a couple of topics from “over the pond” that will have a continuing impact on U.S. financial services entities. The British Parliament was scheduled to vote on Tuesday on the agreement that Prime Minister Theresa May reached with the European Union (EU) for Britain’s departure from the EU, commonly referred to as “Brexit.” But in an unscheduled address to Parliament on Monday, May said that she would seek to postpone the parliamentary vote, noting that if the vote were to be held as planned, her proposal “would be defeated by a significant margin.” As a result, May’s own party triggered a no-confidence vote on May that would have seen her removed as Prime Minister if she lost. By a vote of 200 to 117, May won a vote of confidence in her leadership and is now immune from a leadership challenge for a year. 
Continue Reading Crumpets, Congress, Cannabis and Crypto: Top 10 Issues for Financial Services in 2019 (Part 1 of 2)

Generally

In an important joint statement issued on September 11, 2018, the federal financial regulatory agencies (the FDIC, the OCC, the Federal Reserve, the NCUA, and the CFPB) clarified the role of supervisory guidance, stating that supervisory guidance “does not have the force and effect of law.” Community and regional banks and other regulated financial institutions are applauding this effort by regulators to ensure that both the regulated and their regulators have a clear understanding of the appropriate role of guidance in supervision. Financial institutions over the years have raised numerous concerns about the application of guidance in the examination process, and will likely view this as a positive step towards providing greater clarity.

The agencies said guidance can provide examples of practices that the agencies generally consider consistent with safety-and-soundness standards or other applicable laws and regulations, including those designed to protect consumers. “Supervised institutions at times request supervisory guidance, and such guidance is important to provide insight to industry, as well as supervisory staff, in a transparent way that helps to ensure consistency in the supervisory approach,” the agencies point out in the joint statement.  
Continue Reading Federal Financial Regulators Clarify Supervisory Guidance Not “Force of Law”

Co-Authored by Erin Fonte

On July 31, 2018, the U.S. Department of the Treasury (“Treasury”) released a report on “Nonbank Financials, Fintech, and Innovation,” its fourth and final report on the U.S. financial system pursuant to Executive Order 13772 (the “Report”). At over 200 pages long, with 80 separate recommendations, the Report addresses products and services ranging from payments and marketplace lending to debt collection and wealth management. While many of Treasury’s recommendations would have a positive impact on creating a national and state regulatory environment to foster innovation in financial services, the Report is ambitious, and implementing many of its recommendations will be a massive effort in legislation, policy-making and regulatory oversight. 
Continue Reading Fintech-Forward: U.S. Treasury Department’s Report on Nonbank Financials, Fintech, and Innovation

Anyone interested in charters from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency should be following Lusnak vs. Bank of America, 883 F.3d 1185 (9th Cir. 2018), which is being appealed from the Ninth Circuit to the United States Supreme Court. OCC charters are of course a hot topic—now that the OCC is accepting applications from FinTech companies for national bank charters, the power of federal regulators to excuse federally chartered entities from compliance with state regulations may be more important than ever. After all, the key benefit offered by a national bank charter for many FinTech companies is exemption from state-level money transmission licensing and regulation… in theory.

In reality, many state-vs-federal constitutional questions remain unanswered. Federal courts are still defining the extent of the power of federal financial regulators to exempt federally regulated institutions from state laws. The Supreme Court could help clarify these important issues in the next year or two if it grants the recent request to consider Lusnak
Continue Reading Supreme Court Asked to Clarify Applicability of State Laws to OCC-Chartered Entities in Lusnak v. Bank of America

We work with many regional financial institution clients on a daily basis, and they regularly send us out-of-state garnishments, liens, levies, and other legal processes with one question—“Do I have to answer this?” The first question we ask is whether the foreign state can exercise jurisdiction over the regional financial institution—in other words, whether the financial institution is doing business in that state. Our clients are often quick to respond that they don’t have any branches or employees in other states, and so do not believe that they are doing business in those states.

But for the most part, the days of only “brick and mortar” banking are long gone. With the competition of internet banks and increase of technology, financial institutions are trying to become more appealing and accessible to their customers. To do that, they have increased their presence on the Internet. One result of this increased presence has been increased opportunity to market other products (such as CDs, car loans, or mortgage loans) outside of their home state. 
Continue Reading Online Banking: Are Financial Institutions Subjecting Themselves to Other Jurisdictions Without Knowing?