Rep. Barr introduces legislation to incentivize banks opening in underserved areas

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) on Friday introduced legislation he said would “kickstart the economic recovery in underserved areas” by relaxing regulation hindering new bank charters. © Shutterstock The “Promoting Access to Capital in Underbanked Communities Act of 2021” would require federal banking agencies to establish a three-year phase-in period for de novo financial institutions […]

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U.S. Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) on Friday introduced legislation he said would “kickstart the economic recovery in underserved areas” by relaxing regulation hindering new bank charters.

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The “Promoting Access to Capital in Underbanked Communities Act of 2021” would require federal banking agencies to establish a three-year phase-in period for de novo financial institutions to comply with Federal capital standards and ease restrictions places on those banks.

Barr’s office said in a press release, bank consolidation has left many communities without access to bank branches and that the current regulations are to blame for the lack of new bank formation. Barr introduced similar legislation in September of 2020 where it was referred to the House Committee on Financial Services but did not make it to the floor of the House.

“The key to economic growth and recovery throughout the country is having access to capital for individuals, families, and small business entrepreneurs,” Barr said. “My proposal rolls back government onerous regulations and paves the way for investment to flood into underserved communities to make sure that the economic recovery is not uneven.”

The bill is supported by the American Bankers Association and Independent Community Bankers of America.

“We thank Congressman Barr for introducing this critically important legislation, which would help ensure that all Americans continue to enjoy the many benefits of a local bank,” the American Bankers Association said in a statement. “By making it easier for new banks to launch in rural areas of the country, this legislation expands banking access for individuals and businesses, which translates into greater economic activity and growth. The temporary regulatory adjustments provided in this bill are a reasonable step to encourage de novo formation that will benefit local economies.”

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House advances SAFE Banking Act

The House of Representatives advanced this week the SAFE Banking Act of 2021.© Shutterstock The measure, authored by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and sponsored by Reps. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), Steve Stivers (R-OH), and Warren Davidson (R-OH), in addition to being co-sponsored by 180 members, would allow marijuana-related businesses within states with some form of […]

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The House of Representatives advanced this week the SAFE Banking Act of 2021.

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The measure, authored by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and sponsored by Reps. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), Steve Stivers (R-OH), and Warren Davidson (R-OH), in addition to being co-sponsored by 180 members, would allow marijuana-related businesses within states with some form of legalized marijuana and strict regulatory structures to access the banking system.

The lawmakers acknowledged while 47 states, four U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia representing 97.7 percent of the nation’s population have legalized some form of recreational or medical marijuana, the law presently restricts legitimate licensed marijuana businesses from accessing banking services and products – including depository and checking accounts, resulting in businesses operating in all cash.

Officials said the circumstance has resulted in public safety risks for communities – yielding theft, robberies, and burglaries.

“After years of bringing up this issue, I’m thrilled to see overwhelming support for this bipartisan, common-sense legislation in the U.S. House once again,” Perlmutter said. “I feel optimistic about the path forward for the SAFE Banking Act and, more broadly, reforms to our federal cannabis laws. Congress needs to act in order to catch up with the will of the majority of voters across this county and to ensure we are reducing the public safety risk for our constituents and communities.”

Velázquez said the bill would allow businesses in states that have legalized cannabis to have access to the banking system, just as any other business currently enjoys, noting doing so would help create jobs in communities nationwide while stimulating the economy amid the pandemic recovery.

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Reps. McHenry, Huizenga encourage SEC reforms

Two Republican House leaders are calling for Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) reforms that include modernizing capital markets, promoting greater transparency, and avoiding mission creep.© Shutterstock Reps. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), the Republican leader of the House Financial Services Committee, and Bill Huizenga (R-MI), the Republican leader of the Subcommittee on Investor Protection, Entrepreneurship, and Capital […]

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Two Republican House leaders are calling for Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) reforms that include modernizing capital markets, promoting greater transparency, and avoiding mission creep.

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Reps. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), the Republican leader of the House Financial Services Committee, and Bill Huizenga (R-MI), the Republican leader of the Subcommittee on Investor Protection, Entrepreneurship, and Capital Markets, recently forwarded correspondence to the new SEC Chairman Gary Gensler outlining Republican priorities.

“As you and your fellow Commissioners work to set your agenda, we request a timely response detailing your priorities for 2021–2022,” the legislators wrote. “In developing your priorities, there are a number of important issues that are critical to fulfilling the SEC’s mission.”

The lawmakers said the SEC’s transparent rulemaking agenda is paramount to its effectiveness. Investors, issuers, market participants, financial regulators, and Congress should have a clear understanding of the Commission’s roadmap.

“We insist that the Commission ensure any changes to the Commission’s disclosure regime are consistent with the historical practice of requiring only disclosures of information that are actually material to investors,” the legislators concluded. “The Commission’s touchstone standard of materiality is one of the reasons the U.S. capital markets are the envy of the world. It would be an abuse of the Commission’s authority to stray beyond the materiality standard to achieve non-investment-related social goals, particularly when such issues are better addressed by Congress or other regulators.”

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Measure targets disparities in real estate appraisals

Reps. Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO) and Ritchie Torres (D-NY) recently introduced legislation designed to address the nation’s residential and commercial real estate appraisal industry disparities.© Shutterstock The Real Estate Valuation Fairness and Improvement Act would establish an interagency task force responsible for reviewing and removing barriers to equitable real estate valuation standards while providing federal […]

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Reps. Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO) and Ritchie Torres (D-NY) recently introduced legislation designed to address the nation’s residential and commercial real estate appraisal industry disparities.

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The Real Estate Valuation Fairness and Improvement Act would establish an interagency task force responsible for reviewing and removing barriers to equitable real estate valuation standards while providing federal grant funding facilitating greater diversity and inclusion in the industry.

“Homeownership has traditionally been the primary way that Americans accumulate wealth,” said Cleaver, who co-chairs the Congressional Black Caucus policy group on Child Poverty, Housing, and Community Reinvestment with Torres.
“High-profile cases of homes owned by people of color being devalued in comparison to homes owned by their white neighbors have renewed calls for federal action. As our nation seeks to Build Back Better from the coronavirus pandemic, we have to do it with the intentionality of supporting communities of color that face disparities in the valuation of their most valuable assets, including those who were unable to attain historically low-interest rates during the pandemic due to appraisal inequalities.”

Torres said while homeownership has long been considered a cornerstone of the American Dream, the lack of strong federal enforcement has prevented communities of color from accumulating wealth through homeownership.

“Passing the Real Estate Valuation Fairness and Improvement Act will directly combat disparities in America’s residential and commercial real estate appraisal industry,” he said. “This type of systemic discrimination must be addressed through legislation in order to ensure a path for Black and Brown Americans to build intergenerational wealth.”

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SEC reopens universal proxy comment period

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has voted to reopen the comment period regarding proposed rules for the use of universal proxy cards as a means of aiding director elections.© Shutterstock The effort would facilitate clarity and efficiency for shareholders casting votes. “This is an important step toward finalizing rules that will facilitate clarity and […]

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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has voted to reopen the comment period regarding proposed rules for the use of universal proxy cards as a means of aiding director elections.

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The effort would facilitate clarity and efficiency for shareholders casting votes.

“This is an important step toward finalizing rules that will facilitate clarity and efficiency for shareholders voting in director elections,” SEC Acting Chair Allison Herren Lee said.

Interested parties can submit further comments and data on the rule amendments proposed five years ago and comments on questions raised in the reopening release.

“Reopening the comment period will allow the public to share additional views on the use of universal proxy cards in director elections, particularly in light of the corporate governance developments that have occurred since the Commission issued its proposal,” Acting Director of the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance John Coates said.

Additionally, authorities indicated interested parties would be able to provide feedback on developments that have occurred since 2016, including the potential economic and other impacts of the proposal. According to the SEC, the public comment period will remain open for 30 days following publication of the release in the Federal Register.

Feedback is being solicited on whether proposed rule changes should be extended to registered investment companies and business development companies and whether dissidents should be required to solicit more than a majority of the voting power of shares entitled to vote, as proposed in 2016.

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Reps. Hill, Houlahan introduce bill to help small businesses

U.S. Reps. French Hill (R-AR) and Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) introduced legislation in the House last week that seeks to provide some additional relief for small businesses. © Shutterstock The Paycheck Protection Program Revenue Adjustment Calculation to Increase Capital Accessibility Long-term Act, or the PRACTICAL Act, would allow small businesses eligible for the second-draw PPP to […]

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U.S. Reps. French Hill (R-AR) and Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) introduced legislation in the House last week that seeks to provide some additional relief for small businesses.

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The Paycheck Protection Program Revenue Adjustment Calculation to Increase Capital Accessibility Long-term Act, or the PRACTICAL Act, would allow small businesses eligible for the second-draw PPP to calculate their revenue based on a 90-day earning period rather than on a year over year quarterly basis.

“The PPP, created by the CARES Act, has been a necessary tool for struggling small businesses as they’ve weathered the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, more than 14,000 businesses in Arkansas have received $4.6 billion and through the program have helped save more than 375,000 jobs,” Hill said. “I’d like to thank Rep. Houlahan for joining me in introducing this commonsense bill. Small businesses are the lifeblood of Arkansas, and I am honored to be able to advocate for them in Washington, D.C.”

The PPP has helped many struggling businesses; however, some small businesses are currently at a disadvantage with how the program is set up because of how a business must show its year-over-year revenue decrease.

“While we are making great progress in our fight against the pandemic, our small businesses still need help,” Houlahan said. “I sound like a broken record, but our economy will not successfully recover until our small businesses recover. They represent the very backbone of our economy, at both the local and national level. I have spoken with countless small business owners these past few weeks about their difficulty obtaining a second PPP loan because of the current earning criteria.”

Kevin Kuhlman, vice president, federal government relations at the National Federation of Independent Business, explained that many small business revenue cycles do not follow strict quarterly cycles, especially those in the tourism and hospitality industries.

“By adjusting the eligibility calculation to 90 consecutive days, the bill would allow additional small businesses to be eligible for a second PPP loan. The change is welcome news to small businesses,” Kuhlman said.

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SEC details whistleblower awards

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) officials said joint whistleblowers have been awarded over $50 million for alerting agency staff to violations difficult to detect without their information.© Shutterstock Per the SEC, the circumstances involved complex transactions, noting the joint whistleblowers provided aid to staff during the investigation, including meeting with personnel numerous times and providing […]

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Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) officials said joint whistleblowers have been awarded over $50 million for alerting agency staff to violations difficult to detect without their information.

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Per the SEC, the circumstances involved complex transactions, noting the joint whistleblowers provided aid to staff during the investigation, including meeting with personnel numerous times and providing detailed documents. The award is the second-largest in the history of the program.

Jane Norberg, chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower, said the initiative reflects the contribution of joint whistleblowers to help recover funds for harmed investors.

“The SEC has now awarded over a quarter of a billion dollars to whistleblowers in the first seven months of this fiscal year alone, demonstrating the tremendous value of whistleblowers to our enforcement program,” she said.

The agency indicated it has awarded approximately $812 million to 151 individuals since issuing its first award nine years ago. Payments are made out of an investor protection fund established by Congress completely financed through financial sanctions paid to the SEC by securities law violators.

Whistleblowers may be eligible for an award when they voluntarily provide the SEC with original, timely, and credible information leading to successful enforcement action. Awards can range from 10 percent to 30 percent of the money collected when the monetary sanctions exceed $1 million.

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Legislation designed to mitigate senior fraud garners House approval

Reps. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) and Ted Deutch (D-FL) are commending the House of Representatives’ passage of a measure designed to protect seniors from fraudulent scams.© Shutterstock The Seniors Fraud Protection Act was rolled into a larger anti-fraud bill – the Fraud and Scam Reduction Act (HR 1215) and approved 396 to 13. The bill would […]

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Reps. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) and Ted Deutch (D-FL) are commending the House of Representatives’ passage of a measure designed to protect seniors from fraudulent scams.

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The Seniors Fraud Protection Act was rolled into a larger anti-fraud bill – the Fraud and Scam Reduction Act (HR 1215) and approved 396 to 13. The bill would help prevent common senior scams, such as sweepstakes and charity cons, in addition to fraudulent investment plans and internet fraud.

“We must do everything we can to protect the savings and dignity of older Americans from the scam artists and con men who try to defraud them,” Buchanan said. “This is an important safeguard for seniors who have worked their entire lives with the promise of a safe and secure retirement. Unfortunately, criminals are taking advantage of uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and working overtime to target them.”

Buchanan said scams targeting the elderly threaten also imperil the independence and trust of an already vulnerable community, with authorities adding the legislation creates an advisory office within the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Affairs responsible for alerting consumers of new scams.

“Seniors are often the biggest targets for scams trying to confuse and cheat them to give up money and personal information,” Deutch said. “We need a stronger federal effort to track, target, and warn against these fraudulent schemes. This bill will strengthen important consumer protections to help seniors protect their assets.”

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Sens. Warren, Smith urge Labor Department not to provide Goldman Sachs with EBSA exemption

U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Tina Smith (D-MN) are urging the Department of Labor not to give financial firm Goldman Sachs an exemption from Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) that would allow the company to manage clients’ retirement plans. © Shutterstock The senators reasoned that the company should be held accountable for its “impending […]

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U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Tina Smith (D-MN) are urging the Department of Labor not to give financial firm Goldman Sachs an exemption from Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) that would allow the company to manage clients’ retirement plans.

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The senators reasoned that the company should be held accountable for its “impending admission of criminal wrongdoing for its subsidiary’s role in the Malaysian 1MDB global bribery scandal.”

The lawmakers explained that EBSA has proposed an exemption for Goldman that would allow it to retain its status as a “qualified professional asset manager.” However, under EBSA regulations, a financial entity cannot maintain that status if convicted of criminal activity involving trust management. Goldman Sachs settled the case with the Department of Justice last October, agreeing to pay a $2.9 billion penalty.

“Companies that are convicted of or plead guilty to fraudulent schemes do not deserve special government favors. We have long been concerned about the federal government’s unwillingness to impose on white-collar and corporate criminals the penalties necessary to deter future wrongdoing and protect consumers, taxpayers, and families,” the senators wrote in a letter to Timothy Hauser, deputy assistant secretary of the EBSA, which is part of the Department of Labor.

The senators said that exempting corporations from consequences for misconduct is a breach of EBSA’s obligation to the public.

“You have the opportunity to send a clear message that the federal government holds corporate criminals accountable for their misdeeds and does not give them special regulatory favors. We ask that you review and rescind this proposal,” they added.

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Rep. Beatty touts affordable housing legislation

During a recent hearing focusing on affordable housing federal funding, the House Financial Services Committee examined a proposed measure that a lawmaker said would multiply existing funding fivefold.© Shutterstock Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH) said the Generating Resources and Opportunities Within (GROW) Affordable Housing Act would bolster the National Housing Trust Fund (HTF) and the Capital […]

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During a recent hearing focusing on affordable housing federal funding, the House Financial Services Committee examined a proposed measure that a lawmaker said would multiply existing funding fivefold.

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Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH) said the Generating Resources and Opportunities Within (GROW) Affordable Housing Act would bolster the National Housing Trust Fund (HTF) and the Capital Magnet Fund (CMF).

“Affordable housing is a critical issue for hardworking families in every congressional district across the country,” Beatty said. “I have heard from my constituents every day—before and during the pandemic—about their concerns with the rising price of rent and costs of owning a home, not to mention the lack of affordable housing units.”

The HTF is the first new federal housing resource since 1974, adding funds are used to aid in building, preserving, rehabilitating, and operating housing affordable to low-income individuals.

The CMF supports financing for the preservation, rehabilitation, development, or purchase of affordable housing for low-income communities – and related economic development and community service facilities.

“I am focused on making federal funding for affordable housing a congressional priority and will continue working to provide greater opportunities for all Central Ohioans to build back better and live their American Dream,” Beatty concluded.

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