OCC Bulletin 2020-43| April 24, 2020

COVID-19 Financial Support Programs: Visitorial Authority

To

Chief Executive Officers of All National Banks, Federal Savings Associations, and Federal Branches and Agencies; Department and Division Heads; All Examining Personnel; and Other Interested Parties

Summary

The federal government has taken many actions in response to the economic disruption caused by the spread of COVID-19, including establishing and implementing financial support programs. While the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) recognizes that a wide range of stakeholders, including state and local officials, have an interest in the successful implementation of these programs, the OCC reminds banks1 that it has exclusive visitorial authority over them.

Note for Community Banks

The information in this bulletin applies to all community banks.

Highlights

  • The federal banking system plays a critical role in implementing the federal government's COVID-19 response (e.g., by providing loans under the U.S. Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program). It is imperative that banks are able to fulfill this role efficiently and effectively without unnecessary delay.
  • To that end, the OCC reiterates that federal law vests the OCC with exclusive visitorial authority over banks.2 Unless otherwise authorized by federal law,3 this authority generally precludes state and local officials from conducting examinations, requiring the production of banks' books or records, or exercising other visitorial authority with respect to banks.4
  • If a bank receives a request from a state or local official seeking information that constitutes an attempt to exercise visitation over the bank, the bank is not required to provide this information. The bank, however, should contact its examiner-in-charge as soon as possible.
  • State and local officials are urged to contact the OCC if they have any information to indicate that a bank may be violating federal or applicable state law.

Further Information

Please contact Andra Shuster, Senior Counsel, or Priscilla Benner, Senior Attorney, Chief Counsel's Office, at (202) 649-5490.

 

Jonathan V. Gould
Senior Deputy Comptroller and Chief Counsel

1 The term "banks" refers collectively to national banks, federal savings associations, and federal branches and agencies of foreign banks.

2 12 USC 484, 1463(a)(1), 1464(a)(1), and 3102(b); see also, e.g., OTS Op. Chief Counsel P-2006-2, p. 5 (March 7, 2006).

3 Such exceptions are uncommon but include, for example, specific authorization for state auditors and examiners to review national bank records to ensure compliance with state unclaimed property and escheat laws upon reasonable cause to believe the bank has failed to comply with such laws. 12 USC 484(b).

4 See 12 CFR 7.4000.