June 19 — The first in a series of reports examining the United States’ financial regulatory system and detailing executive actions and regulatory changes that can be immediately undertaken to provide much-needed relief have been issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to President Donald J. Trump.
June 19 — Billions of dollars could be saved if Congress revises a law to allow regulators to be more aggressive in reducing losses from insolvent banks, according to a recent study co-authored by a faculty member from Florida Atlantic University’s College of Business.
June 16 — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion today launched a new website, http://NationalConsumerAssistancePlan.com, to inform and update consumers about implementation of the National Consumer Assistance Plan, an initiative launched by the three companies in March, 2015 to enhance their ability to make credit reports more accurate and make it easier for consumers to correct any errors on their credit reports.
June 5 — The Federal Reserve Board has finalized amendments to the check collection and return provisions in Regulation CC. The board also requested further public comment on an additional proposed amendment to Regulation CC’s liability provisions.
June 5 — Concerns over the limited availability of state-certified and licensed appraisers, particularly in rural areas, has prompted the Federal Reserve Board, the FDIC, the National Credit Union Administration and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to issue an advisory that highlights two options to help insured depository institutions and bank holding companies facilitate the timely consideration of loan applications.
June 5 — Extended notice for upcoming Community Reinvestment Act evaluations was announced by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Beginning with the third-quarter notification for 2017, the OCC will post the list of financial institutions in which CRA evaluations are coming due over the next two quarters. This change will allow more time for interested parties to review and provide meaningful comments on a financial institution’s performance before a CRA examination.
The CFPB Meets with Tennessee’s bankers: concerns about “regulation by enforcement.”
By Kavita Shelat The conference room was filled to capacity. Bank presidents, chief compliance officers and lending executives sat in a U-shape, facing the two speakers. A fissure of tension hung in the room and the audience looked wary. (more…)
By Larry Russell
One of the more perplexing fundamental challenges facing the investment portfolio manager in a community bank at this time is the ongoing administration of the portfolio in light of the changing sizes in the balances of deposits and loans. Of course, the community bank relies on core deposits, and to earn them, must be competitive in its offerings within the footprint of the institution. Likewise, the bank prospers on loan demand and, again, must offer competitive structures and pricing to retain and grow its list of borrowers.
By Alan Wooldridge
Document tracking may not be the first thing you think of when considering your institution’s compliance priorities. Overlooking a single document, however, could have significantly negative consequences for your bank. Here are a few examples of how your bank’s exception management can impact compliance.
Barriers can occur online, and the DOJ is expected to publish new rules addressing accessibility.
By Steven Eisen and David Gevertz
An increasing number of companies in the banking industry are reporting receiving demand letters from law firms alleging website violations under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. These letters claim that the institution’s website contains accessibility barriers, including failure to provide text content, inability of the user to resize text, lack of functionality through the keyboard interface, inability to program the default human language of each web page, and absence of labels or instructions when the website content requires user input.
Title III requires places of public accommodation to provide “auxiliary aids and services” to customers who have a hearing, vision or speech disability unless taking such steps would: (1) fundamentally alter the nature of the good, service, facility, privilege, advantage or accommodation being offered; or (2) result in an undue burden.
The Department of Justice and courts interpreting Title III have extended its requirements to the websites of places of public accommodation. Some courts have distinguished between entities that have physical offices open to the public and companies with an online-only presence. For example, the Ninth Circuit refused to extend Title III to exclusively online companies, interpreting “place of public accommodation” to require “some connection between the good or service complained of and an actual physical place.” However, the First Circuit and other district courts disagree with this interpretation, noting that “places of public accommodation” are not limited to “actual physical structures.”
What This Means for Banks
In 2010, the DOJ released an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on website accessibility, at which time it solicited comments on costs and alternatives to making websites accessible to individuals with disabilities. Since then, the DOJ has stated that it does not anticipate publishing proposed Title III website accessibility regulations until 2018, leaving companies open to heightened litigation risks.
Enter the Worldwide Web Consortium, an international organization that develops protocols and guidelines to assist web developers in creating accessible website content for disabled users. The consortium developed the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 – known as WCAG 2.0 — and it is widely expected that WCAG 2.0 will form the basis for the 2018 proposed DOJ regulations. In the interim, WCAG 2.0 Level A and AA proposals are viewed by several legal observers as the standard by which websites are judged to comply with Title III. The courts, by contrast, have yet to weigh in on this issue.
Twelve Ways to Comply
WCAG 2.0 offers 12 guidelines for websites seeking compliance with Title III. These guidelines require websites to:
- Provide text alternatives for non-text content;
- Provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia;
- Create content that can be presented in different ways, including by assistive technologies, without losing meaning;
- Make it easier for users to see and hear content;
- Make all functionality available from a keyboard;
- Give users enough time to read and use content;
- Do not use content that causes seizures;
- Help users navigate and find content;
- Make text readable and understandable;
- Make content appear and operate in predictable ways;
- Help users avoid and correct mistakes; and
- Maximize compatibility with current and future user tools.
Companies in all industries, but especially banks, should consult with their counsel and IT professionals to determine whether they should modify their websites now to address the above factors. While it may be tempting to wait until the DOJ publishes new rules addressing this issue, delays in modifying deficient websites could result in heightened litigation risks, especially for companies in industries being targeted by plaintiff law firms and/or consumer activists.
Steven Eisen and David Gevertz are shareholders with the Baker Donelson law firm. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.