This week, the NCUA has issued a Letter to Credit Unions “NCUA Actions related to COVID-19” (Letter No: 20-CU-02). This NCUA Letter also contains FAQs regarding COVID-19, NCUA and credit union operations. These FAQs cover impacts to, and flexibility for, annual meetings and elections; FCU monthly board meetings; restrictions on branch access and branch closures; impact on examinations; disruptions to quarterly Call Report filing; access to the NCUA’s Central Liquidity Facility; and other options for managing impacts on liquidity during the pandemic.
As the NCUA reminds us, credit unions have a long history of assisting their members in times of need. To continue this tradition, NCUA is encouraging credit unions to work with affected members and has provided strategies to accomplish this outlined in the Letter.
Throughout Letter 20-CU-02, the NCUA makes clear that examiners will not criticize a credit union’s efforts to provide “prudent relief” for their members when “such efforts are conducted in a reasonable manner with proper controls and management oversight.” If you have questions on other accommodations your credit union is considering, you are encouraged to contact your regional office or state regulator for assistance.
The NCUA stresses the importance of credit union’s ability to meet the financial needs of their members. To that regard, NCUA encourages all credit unions review previous guidance from NCUA that addresses business continuity, hurricanes and other major disasters, emergency, and pandemic planning and preparedness. Letters regarding previous NCUA guidance can be found here.
NCUA will be limiting examination and supervision work to offsite procedures only, with exceptions only for exigent circumstances for as long as necessary. Examiners will be working with credit unions to facilitate secure information exchanges and will be mindful of operational and staffing challenges associated with responding to COVID-19. Again, as examinations occur over the next few months, examiners will be considering these extraordinary circumstances when reviewing the credit union’s financial and operational condition.
In addition, the NCUA has mandated telework for its staff. It is recommended that credit unions submit all requests electronically, where possible, to keep processes moving smoothly.
NCUA has released further guidance on flexibility for annual meetings in its new Letter to Federal Credit Unions (20-FCU-02).
Effective immediately, a federal credit union may adopt by a two-thirds vote of its Board of Directors a new Bylaw Amendment to Article IV without undergoing further Bylaw approval processes with the NCUA. FCUs that choose to adopt this Amendment should ensure that the cross-citations conform to their version of the Bylaws. The new Bylaw amendment language can be found here. If a credit union has adopted this Bylaw Amendment, it may invoke its provisions at any point during 2020, if a majority of the Board of Directors so resolves for each meeting. General quorum requirements must still be met for all-virtual meetings. In addition, FCUs have the flexibility to postpone annual meetings, providing notice of the rescheduled meeting as required by the Bylaws. FCUs can amend the date of its annual meeting by using the “fill-in-the-blank” provision in its Bylaws with two-thirds vote of its Board, without seeking the NCUA’s approval.
Finally, the NCUA has also added a section to their website that contains all of the information they are providing to credit unions regarding COVID-19. This information will be updated as new information becomes available. For the most recent updates, please check https://www.ncua.gov/coronavirus.
The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) issued guidance on March 16, 2020 which requested financial institutions affected by COVID-19 pandemic to contact FinCEN’s Regulatory Support Section and their regulator as soon as practicable regarding concerns about delays to their ability to file timely SARs. In addition, financial institutions are advised to remain alert to malicious or fraudulent transactions and transactions involving bad actors seeking to exploit the pandemic.
FinCEN is monitoring public reports and BSA reports of potential illicit behavior connected to COVID-19 and notes the following emerging trends:
- Imposter Scams – Bad actors attempt to solicit donations, steal personal information, or distribute malware by impersonating government agencies, international organizations, or healthcare organizations
- Investment Scams – bad actors run promotions that falsely claim that the products or services of publicly traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure coronavirus.
- Product Scams – bad actors/companies selling unapproved or misbranded products that make false health claims pertaining to COVID-19. As an example, FinCEN has received reports regarding fraudulent marketing of COVID-19-related supplies, such as certain facemasks.
- Insider Trading – FinCEN has received reports regarding suspected COVID-19-related insider trading.
FinCEN’s alert builds on standing guidance issued in October 2017 regarding identifying financial transactions related to disaster fraud, including benefits fraud, charities fraud and cyber-related fraud.
Finally, the FTC is issuing warnings about scammers taking advantage of fears surrounding coronavirus. Scammers are setting up fake websites and using fake emails and texts to get members’ personal information. Given this environment, it may be a good time for credit unions to send communications to your members reminding them the credit union will never ask for their personal information by email and will not call the member for account information. Remind members to call the credit union directly if they have any concerns and give them a refresher course on your Fraud Prevention Services.
If you have any questions or need any assistance, please contact Jennifer Winston at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (610) 891-9000.