Written by Benjamin M. Litchfield, Regulatory Compliance Counsel
Greetings compliance fans! With the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) largely expected to announce an increase in the federal-funds rate today, many of you may be wondering what obligations credit unions have under federal law to inform members should rates on some variable-rate products increase. This blog post covers some of those questions by taking a look at NCUA’s Truth in Savings Rule and Regulation Z.
Before diving into these rules, keep in mind that share accounts and consumer credit plans are, at their base, contracts between a credit union and its membership that may be subject to various state and federal requirements outside of the scope of either Truth in Savings or Regulation Z. When contemplating a change in interest rates, the credit union’s agreement with the member will determine when the credit union can change rates on existing accounts.
Truth in Savings (TIS)
TIS rules regarding subsequent disclosures require 30 calendar days’ advance written notice for some changes to share accounts. However, section 707.5(a)(1) explicitly exempts variable-rate changes. Moreover, the rule only requires disclosure of changes that are adverse to the interests of the member. Therefore, an increase in the dividend rate and corresponding annual percentage yield would not be required to be disclosed in advance.
For open-end consumer credit plans, such as credit cards, unsecured loans, and home equity plans, Regulation Z does not require credit unions to provide members with change-in-terms notices before rate increases under properly disclosed variable-rate plans. 12 C.F.R. § 1026.9(c)(2)(v)(C). For this exception to the advance written notice requirement to apply, the rate change must be based on a publicly available index that is not under the credit union’s control. Official Interpretations of Regulation Z state that an index is publicly available if the member can independently obtain and use it to verify the annual percentage rate applied to the account.
The commentary provides examples of certain circumstances where the index will be considered to be under a credit union’s control such as when the index is the credit union’s own prime rate or cost of funds. Another example is where the contract specifies a rate floor that does not permit the variable rate to decrease consistent with the index. It is worth noting, however, that the commentary does allow a rate ceiling that does not permit the variable rate to increase beyond a certain threshold. Finally, an index will be considered to be under a credit union’s control where the credit union has the authority to pick the index to be used.
The commentary also notes that the change must be as a result of a change in the index, and not a change in the margin used to determine the variable rate. For example, changing the margin from LIBOR + 2.50% to LIBOR + 3.00%, would not be considered an increase “due to the index” and therefore would require additional disclosures. For credit card accounts, changing the margin would also trigger the member’s right to reject the proposed changes.
For adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs), Regulation Z requires credit unions to provide disclosures in connection with the adjustment of interest rates that result in corresponding adjustment to the payment. 12 C.F.R. § 1026.20(c). The disclosures should be provided to members at least 60 days but no longer than 120 days before the first payment at the adjusted level is due. For ARMs with uniformly scheduled rate adjustments, such as an adjustment every 60 days, credit unions must provide disclosures at least 25 days but no more than 120 days before the first payment at the adjusted level. This rule also applies to ARMs originated prior to January 10, 2015 in which the adjusted interest rate and payment are calculated based on a date that is less than 45 days prior to the adjustment date.
It is important to note that changes that occur within the first 210 days of the closing do not trigger advance notice requirements because homeowners will have received notices of the change at closing. 12 C.F.R. § 1026.20 (d). However, if the first adjustment to an ARM occurs within 60 days of consummation and the new interest rate disclosed at consummation was an estimate, the disclosures must be provided to members as soon as practicable but no less than 25 days before the first payment at the adjusted level is due.
Cats and Christmas Trees: My wife and I recently put up our Christmas tree. While doing so, Hazel, the younger of our two cats decided that she wanted to help out. We adopted her from Meow Stories, a local cat rescue in Fredericksburg, VA and haven’t been happier. Her brother, Max, seems pleased to have a friend in his own haughty, cat-appropriate way.