Financial Services Innovation Act: The U.S. Wants a Sandbox Too
On September 22, 2016, Republican Congressman Patrick McHenry from North Carolina announced the introduction of H.R. 6118, the Financial Services Innovation Act of 2016 (the “Bill”). McHenry is the chief deputy whip and vice chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. According to the press release, the bill was introduced as part of the “Innovation Initiative” that McHenry co-launched earlier this year with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a fellow Republican from California. On October 19, 2016, the Bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit. Before the Bill becomes law in the United States, it must be past by both chambers of Congress and signed by the President. With this Bill, America joins, among others, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, and Malaysia in establishing FinTech regulatory sandboxes.
In its current form, the Bill takes a two-prong approach to constructing a regulatory sandbox. First, it creates a government-wide FinTech oversight regime, and second, it codifies an exclusive no-action relief mechanism for financial innovators. Under the first prong, the Bill requires federal regulators to adopt a mandate to encourage innovation in the financial industry through the creation of Financial Services Innovation Offices (“FSIOs”). Further, the Bill provides for the establishment of the FSIO Liaison Committee (“Committee”) comprised of the directors of each agency’s FSIO. The purpose of the Committee is to coordinate the regulation of companies seeking to bring new and innovative financial technologies to market (“Covered Persons”). Under the second prong, Covered Persons may petition regulators for an alternative compliance plan under an “enforceable compliance agreement,” that will provide the conditions under which the Covered Person may implement their financial innovation (including any regulatory waivers).