Legalization of certain cannabis-related activities by over 30 states has led to a surge in companies that grow and produce cannabis and related products. However, banks and other financial services companies have been hesitant to serve this growing population of potential customers due to conflicting statutes and enforcement policies under federal law. On Thursday, March 28, 2019, the Financial Services Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives took a step toward clearing some ambiguity, at least for federally insured financial institutions.

The Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act of 2019 (“SAFE Act”), which the Committee approved on a vote of 45-15, with 11 of the panel’s Republican members voting in favor, has been cleared for consideration by the full House. The SAFE Act would, if enacted, provide a safe harbor against retaliatory enforcement action by federal bank regulators directed at banks (including federal branches of non-U.S. banks), savings associations, and credit unions that provide services to cannabis businesses or service providers. In addition, the SAFE Act would prohibit federal regulators from discouraging depository institutions from offering financial services, including loans, to an account holder on the basis that the account holder is a cannabis-related business or service provider; an employee, owner, or operator of a cannabis-related business; or an owner or operator of real estate or equipment leased to a cannabis-related business. Furthermore, the SAFE Act would provide that officers, directors, and employees of depository institutions and the Federal Reserve Banks may not be held liable under federal law or regulations based solely on their provision of financial services to cannabis-related businesses or for investing any income derived from such businesses. The protections would apply only to cannabis-related businesses located in states, political subdivisions of states, or an Indian country where local law permits the cultivation, production, manufacture, sale, transportation, distribution, or purchase of cannabis. 
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Earlier this week, the Bureau released the Winter 2019 edition of Supervisory Highlights.  This marks the first edition issued under the CFPB’s new Director, Kathy Kraninger, who was confirmed to a five-year term in December.  The report describes observations from examinations that were generally completed between June and November 2018 and summarizes recent publicly-released enforcement actions and guidance.

Like the sole edition of Supervisory Highlights issued under Acting Director Mick Mulvaney’s tenure, this edition emphasizes that “it is important to keep in mind that institutions are subject only to the requirements of relevant laws and regulations,” and that the purpose of disseminating Supervisory Highlights is to “help institutions better understand” how the Bureau examines them for compliance—statements that signal a shift in how the Bureau approaches its supervisory role.
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The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”), the National Credit Union Administration, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”) issued guidance on May 18, 2016 outlining the agencies’ supervisory expectations regarding customer account deposit reconciliation practices. The guidance does not impose any new requirements, but reminds institutions of the expectation that they implement policies and procedures to protect customers where there is a credit discrepancy (e.g., difference between the amount of the actual deposit and the amount credited to the customer’s account).
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