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From Banking and Finance Law Daily, January 30, 2018

House passes thrift charter flexibility, mobile banking, and senior financial protection bills

By Thomas G. Wolfe, J.D.

The House of Representatives has passed three bills: the Federal Savings Association Charter Flexibility Act of 2017, the Making Online Banking Initiation Legal and Easy (MOBILE) Act of 2017, and the Senior Safe Act of 2017. Among other things, the Federal Savings Association Charter Flexibility Act would amend the Home Owners’ Loan Act to "allow Federal savings associations to elect to operate as national banks." The MOBILE Act measure would establish requirements for financial institutions regarding the use of a driver’s license or a similar personal-identification card in opening an account or obtaining a financial product or service. Meanwhile, the Senior Safe Act seeks to "provide immunity from suit for certain individuals who disclose potential examples of financial exploitation of senior citizens."

Federal Savings Association Charter Flexibility Act. Representative Keith Rothfus (R-Pa), a co-sponsor of the Federal Savings Association Charter Flexibility Act (H.R. 1426), applauded the House’s passage, stating that the measure is a "common sense reform bill that will help to ensure that community banks, many of which have histories stretching back generations, can continue to serve the needs of Main Street businesses and families."

Likewise, Independent Community Bankers of America President and CEO Camden Fine remarked, "Inspired by ICBA’s Plan for Prosperity regulatory relief platform, the charter option is also included as a provision of the bipartisan Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act (S. 2155) pending in the Senate. This important policy will provide flexibility for institutions to choose the business model that best suits their communities—without having to go through the costly and complex process of converting to a national bank charter." Similarly, the American Bankers Association expressed its "strong support" for the bill.

MOBILE Act. The MOBILE Act (H.R. 1457) passed the House by a vote of 397 to 8. Representative Scott Tipton (R-Colo), one of the sponsors of the measure, stated, "This important bipartisan legislation will expand access to mobile banking and better ensure those living in areas without a physical bank location have access to vital financial services. I look forward to the Senate taking up this important bill soon."

Commenting on the bill’s passage, the Financial Services Roundtable commented that the MOBILE Act "makes it easier for banks to implement new mobile technologies by clarifying that institutions may utilize images of a consumer’s driver’s license or government-issued ID to open an account." Noting that the measure has received bipartisan support, FSR added that it "will advocate for the bill, which is included in Senator Crapo’s regulatory reform bill, to move quickly through the Senate either as part of that bill or as a standalone measure." The American Bankers Association and the Consumer Bankers Association noted their support for the measure as well.

Senior Safe Act. The Senior Safe Act (H.R. 3758) was included as part of a larger package of bills labeled as the "Housing Opportunities Made Easier (HOME) Act" (H.R. 2255). In a Jan. 29, 2018, release, Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Maine), who introduced the legislation along with Rep. Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz), remarked that current law lacks the necessary flexibility to allow financial institutions to report suspected abuse to the proper authorities. According to Poliquin, the Senior Safe Act "encourages individuals and financial institutions to report suspected instances of fraud and elder financial abuse. It also incentivizes firms to train employees to identify and stop financial fraud."

Likewise, in noting the bill’s passage, Sinema said that the measure would help law enforcement "track down financial criminals who target seniors by enabling banks, credit unions, investment advisors, broker-dealers, and other financial service providers to better communicate with appropriate agencies when they suspect financial exploitation of seniors."

Companies: American Bankers Association; Consumer Bankers Association; Financial Services Roundtable; Independent Community Bankers of America

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