As part of its efforts to combat money laundering and other fraudulent activity, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued its Beneficial Ownership Rule, effective for new accounts opened on or after May 11, 2018. The rule requires banks, as part of their customer identification programs, to verify the identity of the beneficial owners of certain legal entities. Beneficial owners include individuals who, directly or indirectly, own 25% or more of an entity, as well as any individual who has “significant responsibility to control, manage or direct the legal entity.”
In a September 7, 2018, ruling, FinCEN created an exception to the beneficial ownership rule for legal entities that open new accounts on or after the effective date as a result of:
- Rolling over a certificate of deposit,
- Renewing, modifying or extending a loan, commercial line of credit or credit card account that doesn’t require underwriting review and approval, or
- Renewing a safe deposit box rental.
The exception applies only to rollovers, renewals, modifications or extensions of the above product types that take place on or after May 11, 2018. It doesn’t apply to the initial opening of such accounts.
Banks considering use of alternative credit data
Some lenders are considering the use of alternative data to expand access to credit for people with thin credit histories or negative items on their credit reports. By developing innovative techniques for analyzing a borrower’s ability to repay, lenders can expand their pools of potential borrowers beyond those identified by traditional techniques.
Alternative data refers to information that may be used to evaluate creditworthiness but is not traditionally part of a credit report. Examples include rent payments, mobile phone payments, cable TV payments and bank account information. This may also include education, occupation and even social media activities.
It may take some time before alternative data techniques catch on among community banks. In 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a “Request for Information” seeking information about alternative data and the modeling techniques used to analyze them. You can find the document, which discusses the benefits and risks associated with alternative data, at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/policy-compliance/notice-opportunities-comment/archive-closed/request-information-regarding-use-alternative-data-and-modeling-techniques-credit-process.
Supervisory guidance isn’t the law
In a recent joint statement, the federal banking agencies clarified that supervisory guidance “does not have the force and effect of law.” Among other things, the agencies intend to limit the use of numerical thresholds or other “bright lines” in describing expectations, and examiners won’t criticize banks for “violations” of supervisory guidance.