News Release 2020-156 | November 20, 2020
WASHINGTON—The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) today proposed a rule to ensure fair access to banking services provided by national banks, federal savings associations, and federal branches and agencies of foreign bank organizations.
The proposal would codify more than a decade of OCC guidance stating that banks should provide access to services, capital, and credit based on the risk assessment of individual customers, rather than broad-based decisions affecting whole categories or classes of customers.
“Fair access to financial services, credit, and capital are essential to our economy,” said Acting Comptroller of the Currency Brian P. Brooks. “This proposed rule would ensure that banks meet their responsibility to provide their services fairly since they enjoy special privilege and powers because if the system fails to provide fairness to all, it cannot be a source of strength for any.”
The proposal implements language included in Title III of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, which charged the OCC with “assuring the safety and soundness of, and compliance with laws and regulations, fair access to financial services, and fair treatment of customers by, the institutions and other persons subject to its jurisdiction.” The statute expanded the OCC responsibilities to include fair access separately from fair treatment following the last financial crisis during which the government had provided substantial public resources to support the banking system.
The proposal builds upon the fundamental principle of nondiscrimination and would prevent banks—alone or in coordination with others—from limiting fair access to banking services by preventing a business or person from entering, or limiting their ability to enter, a particular market, or disadvantaging a person to benefit another person or interest.
The proposal would apply to the largest banks in the country that may exert significant pricing power or influence over sectors of the national economy. The proposal would require a covered bank to ensure it makes its products and services available to all customers in the community it serves, based on consideration of quantitative, impartial, risk-based standards established by the bank. Under the proposal, a covered bank’s decision to deny services based on an objective assessment of the person’s creditworthiness, ability to pay, or or other quantitative, impartial, risk-based reasons would not violate the bank’s obligation to provide fair access. However, under the proposal, the bank may not deny a customer service to disadvantage, limit, or prevent the customer from entering or competing in a market or business segment, or to benefit another person or business activity.