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How to Make the Most of Expanded CRA Modernization Comment Period

4 min read
Feb 26, 2020

Bowing to criticism that a 60-day comment period is unusually short and not enough time for in-depth analysis, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) have announced a 30-day extension of the comment period for their Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) modernization proposal.

The new deadline for comment is April 8, 2020.

The agencies announced their joint notice of proposed rulemaking on December 12, 2019, and started the clock on the comment period when they published the proposal in the Federal Register on January 9. The OCC and FDIC have so far received over 400 comments.

That gives interested parties, including your financial institution, an extra 30 days to review the 240-page document and offer feedback on where you think it succeeds and where further adjustments are needed.

How to Write a Comment Letter

Make the most of these extra 30 days to write a comment letter that effectively explains your financial institution’s position on the proposed changes to CRA. Among the areas you may want to address include how the proposal:

  • Clarifies and expands what qualifies for CRA credit
  • Creates additional definitions of “assessment areas”
  • Expands where CRA activity counts
  • Provides an objective method for measuring CRA activity based on an institution’s size
  • Revises data collection, record-keeping and reporting
9 tips for writing an effective comment letter
  1. Review the proposal. Read the proposal to see how it would impact your institution. You can also check out other resources to help you understand it. American Banker breaks down the highlights while the ABA Journal Podcast talks about it with OCC Senior Deputy Comptroller Grovetta Gardineer.
  2. Stick to the facts. A comment letters isn’t a place to vent all your CRA feelings and frustrations. It’s a place to offer real-world insights into current CRA practices and offer facts and data that demonstrate the validity of your points.

If you wanted to make a point about clarifying and expanding what clarifies for CRA credit, you could address activities your FI engages in that have a measurable impact in CRA lending but that don’t appear to qualify for CRA credit under the current or proposed rules. Don’t just complain vaguely that it’s frustrating to determine what qualifies for CRA credit and widely pronounce that an oversight exists. Don’t just say that your bank is a nice place and would never purposely avoid certain lending areas. Explain the specific circumstances and what it means in real economic terms. Show them what your FI really does.

Your Lending Compliance Management Suite is a great tool for this task.

  1. Be specific. The proposal is 240 pages long. Make sure you cite the precise regulations or parts of the proposal where you have concerns, otherwise the agencies may misunderstand what you’re trying to convey.
  2. Offer suggestions, not just criticism. It’s easy to rattle off a laundry list of complaints, but it’s far more effective to offer suggestions for refining and improving the proposal. If you have constructive ideas on how to make CRA more effective, efficient, or better for everyone, share them. Don’t forget to explain why your solution would be an improvement over the existing proposal. Be part of the solution, not just another complainer.
  3. Gather input from across your institution. Don’t feel like you have to go it alone. Talk to others in your bank to get ideas on how to make your comment letter more compelling. The more insights and examples you can include, the more effective your letter.
  4. Keep it short. While the agencies are interested in data and suggestions from you, they also have a lot of other comment letters to review. Don’t waste their time with a bloated comment letter. You don’t need to address every issue raised in the proposal. Focus on the elements most important to you—and address them succinctly. One to two pages should be enough to convey your points effectively. If you really need to write a novel, provide a summary at the beginning of your letter.
  5. Offer counterpoints to arguments. From media reports to already-published comment letters, it’s easy to quickly research the arguments being made by those who disagree with your CRA proposal point of view. Bolster your argument by respectfully and politely pointing out the weaknesses of opposing views with facts and data.
  6. Don’t share any information you wouldn’t want the world to know. While facts and data are important, remember that comment letters are public documents. They will be published, available, and searchable publicly online. Don’t share privileged information or write anything that could embarrass your institution.
  7. Submit by the deadline. The OCC and FDIC have a deadline for a reason. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to shape CRA by forgetting to submit your comment letter on time. It doesn’t have to be reviewed by the agencies if it’s not submitted by 11:59 p.m. (Eastern) on April 8, 2020.

How to Submit a Comment Letter to the OCC

While you can choose the old-school route and mail in a hard copy comment letter, the OCC prefers to receive them electronically.

There are two options for doing this:

  • The Federal eRulemaking Portal. gov offers a portal for submitting comments. It allows the benefits of a tracking number and makes it easier for the agencies to organize comments. To comment on CRA, click here. There is also an instructional video tutorial.
  • Send your comment letter to cra.reg@occ.treas.gov. Make sure you use the subject line ‘‘Community Reinvestment Act Regulations.”

How to Submit a Comment Letter to the FDIC

The FDIC doesn’t state a preference for how it receives comment letters and accepts them through its website, via email, mailed letter or hand delivery. All comments must include the agency name and RIN 3064–AF22 for this rulemaking.

  • FDIC Website. Submit comments at https://www.fdic.gov/regulations/laws/federal/index.html. Make sure to choose “Submit Comment” for Community Reinvestment Act Regulations 12 CFR Part 345 RIN 3064–AF22 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking; Comment Request.
  • Submit to Comments@fdic.gov. Include the RIN 3064–AF22 on the subject line of the message.

Be sure to stay tuned to the Nsight blog for the latest CRA and fair lending developments.


Related: What Is A Compliance Management System And Why Your FI Needs One

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