Judge Nixes Bid to Halt Federal Charters for Fintech Firms as Premature

By | December 14, 2017

A Manhattan federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit brought by New York’s banking regulator against the U.S. Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) over its proposal to offer charters that would let online lenders and other so-called “fintech” companies do business national wide, saying it was filed too early.

Since the OCC has not reached a final decision on the fintech charters, the claims were “not ripe,” and any purported harm speculative, U.S. District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald wrote in her decision tossing the case without prejudice.

In the lawsuit, filed in May, Maria Vullo, superintendent of the New York Department of Financial Services (DFS), called the OCC’s plan to grant the national charters “lawless, ill-conceived and destabilizing of financial markets” that are best regulated by the state.

Vullo sought to prevent the U.S. banking regulator from offering the charters, claiming it exceeded the agency’s authority under the National Banking Act.

The state argued that the charters would allow internet lenders to gouge New York borrowers by locating in states that allow higher rates, that money transmitters could skirt local consumer protection laws and capital standards, and that the state agency could be deprived of resources.

The judge said the OCC’s actions over the last seven months support the finding that the federal regulator had not determined whether it would issue the charters.

The proposal, the judge noted, was first discussed by an appointee of former President Barack Obama, and its position “has become increasingly uncertain under President Trump’s two Comptrollers of the Currency.”

She added that “it would be sensible for the OCC to provide DFS with notice as soon as it reaches a final decision,” given DFS’s intent to pursue the issues.

In response to the decision, Vullo noted that the court did not reach a decision on whether the OCC has the authority to issue the fintech charters.

Given the OCC’s statements since DFS filed the lawsuit, she added, “we hope that the OCC will abandon its pursuit of the chartering of nondepository institutions.”

A spokesman for the OCC declined to comment.

In April, a nationwide organization of state bank supervisors brought a similar lawsuit to prevent the agency from moving forward with the charters. That complaint, filed by the Conference of State Bank Supervisors in federal court in Washington, is pending.

(Reporting by Karen Freifeld; Editing by Lisa Shumak)

Topics USA Legislation New York InsurTech

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