Agencies Encourage Insured Depository Institutions to Assist Displaced Customers

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Immediate Release

The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the National Credit Union Administration, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Office of Thrift Supervision (the agencies), and the Conference of State Bank Supervisors are asking insured depository institutions to consider all reasonable and prudent steps to assist customers’ and credit union members’ cash and financial needs in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina. The agencies are working with state regulatory agencies, financial industry trade groups, and affected financial institutions to identify customer needs and monitor institutions' restoration of services.The agencies remind the public that deposit insurance is in full force and that money in FDIC- or NCUA-insured accounts is protected by federal deposit insurance. The agencies also note that a priority is to provide customer access to deposit accounts and other financial assets. Many financial institutions are implementing contingency plans, including procedures for consumers to have access to ATMs and use of their debit cards.The financial services community through its various trade associations is working together to assist affected institutions. The agencies encourage financial institutions to assist affected institutions and consider all reasonable and prudent actions that could help meet the critical financial needs of their customers and their communities. To the extent consistent with safe and sound banking practices, such actions may include:

  • Waiving ATM fees for customers and non-customers
  • Increasing ATM daily cash withdrawal limits
  • Easing restrictions on cashing out-of-state and non-customer checks
  • Waiving overdraft fees as a result of paycheck interruption
  • Waiving early withdrawal penalties on time deposits
  • Waiving availability restrictions on insurance checks
  • Allowing loan customers to defer or skip some payments
  • Waiving late fees for credit card and other loan balances due to interruption of mail and/or billing statements or the customer’s inability to access funds
  • Easing credit card limits and credit terms for new loans
  • Delaying delinquency notices to the credit bureaus

The agencies, in consultation with FinCEN, also encourage depository institutions to be reasonable in their approach to verifying the identity of individuals temporarily displacedHurricane Katrina. Under the Customer Identification Program requirement of the Bank Secrecy Act, depository institutions must obtain, at a minimum, an individual's name, address, date of birth and taxpayer identification number or other acceptable identificatnumber before opening an account. The Customer Identification Program requirement provides depository institutions with flexibility to design a program that uses documentsnon-documentary methods, or a combination to verify a customer's identity. Moreover, thregulation provides that verification of identity may be completed within a reasonable time after the account is opened. Recognizing the urgency of this situation, the agencies encourage depository institutions to use non-documentary verification methods for acustomers that may not be able to provide standard identification documents, as permitted under the regulation. A depository institution in the affected area, or dealing with new customers from the affected area, may amend its Customer Identification Program immediately and obtain required board approval for program changes as soon as practicable.The agencies note that these measures could help customers recover their financial strength and contribute to the health of the local community and the long-term interest of financial institutions and their customers when undertaken in a prudent manner. The agencies recognize that the needs and situation of each financial institution and its community acustomers are unique. The actions above may not be feasible or desirable for all institutionand many institutions may provide additional services from those identified.The agencies will continue to monitor closely the situation and needs of insured depository institutions and their customers and will provide additional guidance, as required, to help address those needs. Institutions in need of assistance in dealing with customers affected bthe hurricane should contact their primary supervisors.