President-elect Joe Biden will nominate Rohit Chopra to be the next director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, according to four sources familiar with the decision, choosing a strong consumer advocate aligned with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). If confirmed, Chopra, now a member of the Federal Trade Commission, would be returning to helm an agency he helped Warren set up after its establishment by the landmark Dodd-Frank financial reform law of 2010. The selection of Chopra signals that the Biden administration plans to return the CFPB to the more-muscular posture of its early days following three years of Trump administration appointees curbing the agency's reach. Biden also plans to nominate Gary Gensler, a former financial regulator known for aggressive bank oversight, as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, a source familiar with the matter said.
Duke Energy announced today it has deposited $5 million into Optus Bank, a Black-owned bank based in South Carolina, furthering the company's support for diverse and minority-owned businesses, individuals and low income communities. The transaction was completed at the end of 2020. This marks the largest deposit Duke Energy has made with a Black-owned bank in the U.S. and the company expects to evaluate additional similar opportunities in the future. And, this historic relationship expands Optus Bank's depositors to include the utility sector.
The Bureau is actively seeking applications for vacancies on the Consumer Advisory Board (CAB), the Community Bank Advisory Council (CBAC), the Credit Union Advisory Council (CUAC), and the Academic Research Council (ARC). The deadline for application closes on February 24, 2021, at 11:59PM EST. Our intention is to complete this Director-level appointment process by September 2021. There are 18 vacancies across the various committees. Advisory committee members serve two year terms, on a staggered cadence. Please click the link for application instructions.
Congress has made the Paycheck Protection Program more flexible and given priority to the smallest, hardest-hit businesses, but the long-awaited second round of loans will still serve as little more than a stopgap as the pandemic rages on. The lending program reopened to some lenders Monday, about three weeks after Congress passed the bill. During the first few days, only community financial institutions, which mostly work with very small and often minority-owned businesses, will be able to make loans. "It's not a silver bullet for smaller businesses. But they hopefully can get a bunch of their applications in before the system is overwhelmed," said Jeannine Jacokes, CEO of the Community Development Bankers Association.
The Paycheck Protection Program's soft launch received mixed reviews, creating uncertainty over when the portal will be open to all participating lenders. The Small Business Administration limited access on Monday to community development financial institutions, minority depository institutions and other mission-driven lenders, representing about a tenth of all the companies participating in the emergency loan program. “It’s a challenging situation for us,” said Robert James II, director of strategic initiatives at the $48.4 million-asset Carver Financial, a Black-owned bank in Savannah, Ga., that has yet to make any loans under the restart.
The recently passed coronavirus relief package will include $9 billion to the newly restored Emergency Capital Investment Fund. The $9 billion Emergency Capital Investment Fund isn't supposed to be a bailout for eligible banks and credit unions. It's intended to position the eligible lenders to make new loans as the economy recovers over the next few years — particularly small businesses loans. “It’s a gargantuan amount of money,” says Jeannine Jacokes, chief executive at the Community Development Bankers Association. “It’s either going to be absolutely game changing or it’s going to be a dud. It’s all in how Treasury implements it.”
City First Bank of D.C. and CEO Brian Argrett entered 2021 with lofty goals. The $394 million-asset bank is in the homestretch of completing a merger with Broadway Financial in Los Angeles that would create the nation’s biggest Black-led bank. The deal, scheduled to close in the first half of this year, comes at a time when more banks are focusing on addressing racial inequality. Argrett is one of American Banker’s five community bankers to watch this year.
Several consumer advocacy groups are opposing Oportun Financial's application for a national bank charter, citing concerns about the company's lending and debt-collection practices. Many of those issues came to light in a ProPublica investigation over the summer that focused on the high proportion of collection suits that the online lender had filed in recent years and its high proportion of repeat borrowers. Oportun charges high interest rates, rolls over too much debt and has been too quick to take borrowers to court when they fall behind on payments, the community groups wrote in comment letters to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. The company’s application also lacks a sufficient Community Reinvestment Act plan, several of the groups wrote.
The President is expected to sign the $900 billion COVID relief bill passed by Congress yesterday. Find here a 29 page summary on the most relevant aspects of the stimulus package.
The stimulus package being negotiated in Washington includes $285 billion for a renewed Paycheck Protection Program. The bill includes other aid measures that are not specifically part of the Paycheck Protection Program but could nonetheless help many small businesses. This includes $12 billion for Community Development Financial Institutions, which make loans and grants to people and communities that are often unable to get traditional banks to do business with them. That amount of money would be transformational, said Jeannine Jacokes, the chief executive of the Community Development Bankers Association, a trade group for community financial institutions. “Every time we have a recession, low-income places are hit the hardest and are the last to recover,” Ms. Jacokes said. “Treasury is providing the capital for a long-term investment in these communities.”