What Is Gramm Leach Biley Act GLB
The Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act (GLB), also known as the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, (Pub.L. 106-102, 113 Stat. 1338, enacted November 12, 1999) or the Citigroup Relief Act is an act of the 106th United States Congress (1999–2001). It repealed part of the Glass–Steagall Act of 1933, removing barriers in the market among banking companies, securities companies and insurance companies that prohibited any one institution from acting as any combination of an investment bank, a commercial bank, and an insurance company. With the passage of the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act, commercial banks, investment banks, securities firms, and insurance companies were allowed to consolidate. The legislation was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
A year before the law was passed, Citicorp, a commercial bank holding company, merged with the insurance company Travelers Group in 1998 to form the conglomerate Citigroup, a corporation combining banking, securities and insurance services under a house of brands that included Citibank, Smith Barney, Primerica, and Travelers. Because this merger was a violation of the Glass–Steagall Act and the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956, the Federal Reserve gave Citigroup a temporary waiver in September 1998. Less than a year later, GLB was passed to legalize these types of mergers on a permanent basis. The law also repealed Glass–Steagall's conflict of interest prohibitions "against simultaneous service by any officer, director, or employee of a securities firm as an officer, director, or employee of any member bank."
The banking industry had been seeking the repeal of the 1933 Glass–Steagall Act since the 1980s, if not earlier. In 1987 the Congressional Research Service prepared a report that explored the cases for and against preserving the Glass–Steagall act.
Respective versions of the legislation were introduced in the U.S. Senate by Phil Gramm (Republican of Texas) and in the U.S. House of Representatives by Jim Leach (R-Iowa). The third lawmaker associated with the bill was Rep. Thomas J. Bliley, Jr. (R-Virginia), Chairman of the House Commerce Committee from 1995 to 2001.
During debate in the House of Representatives, Rep. John Dingell (Democrat of Michigan) argued that the bill would result in banks becoming "too big to fail." Dingell further argued that this would necessarily result in a bailout by the Federal Government.
The House passed its version of the Financial Services Act of 1999 on July 1, 1999, by a bipartisan vote of 343-86 (Republicans 205–16; Democrats 138–69; Independent 0–1),[note 1] two months after the Senate had already passed its version of the bill on May 6 by a much-narrower 54–44 vote along basically-partisan lines (53 Republicans and 1 Democrat in favor; 44 Democrats opposed).[note 2]
When the two chambers could not agree on a joint version of the bill, the House voted on July 30 by a vote of 241-132 (R 58-131; D 182-1; Ind. 1–0) to instruct its negotiators to work for a law which ensured that consumers enjoyed medical and financial privacy as well as "robust competition and equal and non-discriminatory access to financial services and economic opportunities in their communities" (i.e., protection against exclusionary redlining).[note 3]
The bill then moved to a joint conference committee to work out the differences between the Senate and House versions. Democrats agreed to support the bill after Republicans agreed to strengthen provisions of the anti-redlining Community Reinvestment Act and address certain privacy concerns; the conference committee then finished its work by the beginning of November. On November 4, the final bill resolving the differences was passed by the Senate 90-8,[note 4] and by the House 362-57.[note 5] The legislation was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on November 12, 1999.
Changes caused by the Act
Many of the largest banks, brokerages, and insurance companies desired the Act at the time. The justification was that individuals usually put more money into investments when the economy is doing well, but they put most of their money into savings accounts when the economy turns bad. With the new Act, they would be able to do both 'savings' and 'investment' at the same financial institution, which would be able to do well in both good and bad economic times.
Prior to the Act, most financial services companies were already offering both saving and investment opportunities to their customers. On the retail/consumer side, a bank called Norwest which would later merge with Wells Fargo Bank led the charge in offering all types of financial services products in 1986. American Express attempted to own almost every field of financial business (although there was little synergy among them). Things culminated in 1998 when Citibank merged with Travelers Insurance creating CitiGroup. The merger violated the Bank Holding Company Act (BHCA), but Citibank was given a two-year forbearance that was based on an assumption that they would be able to force a change in the law. The Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act passed in November 1999, repealing portions of the BHCA and the Glass–Steagall Act, allowing banks, brokerages, and insurance companies to merge, thus making the CitiCorp/Travelers Group merger legal.
Also prior to the passage of the Act, there were many relaxations to the Glass–Steagall Act. For example, a few years earlier, commercial Banks were allowed to pursue investment banking, and before that banks were also allowed to begin stock and insurance brokerage. Insurance underwriting was the only main operation they weren't allowed to do, something rarely done by banks even after the passage of the Act.
Much consolidation occurred in the financial services industry since, but not at the scale some had expected. Retail banks, for example, do not tend to buy insurance underwriters, as they seek to engage in a more profitable business of insurance brokerage by selling products of other insurance companies. Other retail banks were slow to market investments and insurance products and package those products in a convincing way. Brokerage companies had a hard time getting into banking, because they do not have a large branch and backshop footprint. Banks have recently tended to buy other banks, such as the 2004 Bank of America and Fleet Boston merger, yet they have had less success integrating with investment and insurance companies. Many banks have expanded into investment banking, but have found it hard to package it with their banking services, without resorting to questionable tie-ins which caused scandals at Smith Barney.
Crucial to the passing of this Act was an amendment made to the GLB, stating that no merger may go ahead if any of the financial holding institutions, or affiliates thereof, received a "less than satisfactory [sic] rating at its most recent CRA exam", essentially meaning that any merger may only go ahead with the strict approval of the regulatory bodies responsible for the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). This was an issue of hot contention, and the Clinton Administration stressed that it "would veto any legislation that would scale back minority-lending requirements." 
The GLB also did not remove the restrictions on banks placed by the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956 which prevented financial institutions from owning non-financial corporations. It conversely prohibits corporations outside of the banking or finance industry from entering retail and/or commercial banking. Many assume Wal-Mart's desire to convert its industrial bank to a commercial/retail bank ultimately drove the banking industry to back the GLB restrictions.
Some restrictions remain to provide some amount of separation between the investment and commercial banking operations of a company. For example, licensed bankers must have separate business cards, e.g., "Personal Banker, Wells Fargo Bank" and "Investment Consultant, Wells Fargo Private Client Services". Much of the debate about financial privacy is specifically centered around allowing or preventing the banking, brokerage, and insurances divisions of a company from working together.
In terms of compliance, the key rules under the Act include The Financial Privacy Rule which governs the collection and disclosure of customers’ personal financial information by financial institutions. It also applies to companies, regardless of whether they are financial institutions, who receive such information. The Safeguards Rule requires all financial institutions to design, implement and maintain safeguards to protect customer information. The Safeguards Rule applies not only to financial institutions that collect information from their own customers, but also to financial institutions – such as credit reporting agencies, appraisers, and mortgage brokers – that receive customer information from other financial institutions.
- GLB compliance is mandatory; whether a financial institution discloses nonpublic information or not, there must be a policy in place to protect the information from foreseeable threats in security and data integrity.
- Major components put into place to govern the collection, disclosure, and protection of consumers’ nonpublic personal information; or personally identifiable information include:
Financial Privacy Rule
On November 17, 2009, eight federal regulatory agencies released the final version of a model privacy notice form to make it easier for consumers to understand how financial institutions collect and share information about consumers.
Financial institutions defined
The GLB defines "financial institutions" as: "…companies that offer financial products or services to individuals, like loans, financial or investment advice, or insurance." The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has jurisdiction over financial institutions similar to, and including, these:
- non-bank mortgage lenders,
- real estate appraisers,
- loan brokers,
- some financial or investment advisers,
- debt collectors,
- tax return preparers,
- banks, and
- real estate settlement service providers.
These companies must also be considered significantly engaged in the financial service or production that defines them as a "financial institution".
Insurance has jurisdiction first by the state, provided the state law at minimum complies with the GLB. State law can require greater compliance, but not less than what is otherwise required by the GLB.
Consumer vs. customer defined
The Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act defines a ‘consumer’ as
- "an individual who obtains, from a financial institution, financial products or services which are to be used primarily for personal, family, or household purposes, and also means the legal representative of such an individual." (See 15 U.S.C. § 6809(9).}
A ‘customer’ is a consumer that has developed a relationship with privacy rights protected under the GLB. A ‘customer’ is not someone using an automated teller machine (ATM) or having a check cashed at a cash advance business. These are not ongoing relationships like a ‘consumer’ might have; i.e., a mortgage loan, tax advising, or credit financing. A business is not an individual with personal nonpublic information, so a business cannot be a customer under the GLB. A business, however, may be liable for compliance to the GLB depending upon the type of business and the activities utilizing individual’s personal nonpublic information.
Definition: A "consumer" is an individual who obtains or has obtained a financial product or service from a financial institution that is to be used primarily for personal, family, or household purposes, or that individual's legal representative.
Examples of Consumer Relationships:
- Applying for a loan
- Obtaining cash from a foreign ATM, even if it occurs on a regular basis
- Cashing a check with a check-cashing company
- Arranging for a wire transfer
Definition: A "customer" is a consumer who has a "customer relationship" with a financial institution. A "customer relationship" is a continuing relationship with a consumer.
Examples of Establishing a Customer Relationship:
- Opening a credit card account with a financial institution
- Entering into an automobile lease (on a non-operating basis for an initial lease term of at least 90 days) with an automobile dealer
- Providing personally identifiable financial information to a broker in order to obtain a mortgage loan
- Obtaining a loan from a mortgage lender
- Agreeing to obtain tax preparation or credit counseling services
"Special Rule" for Loans: The customer relationship travels with ownership of the servicing rights.
Consumer/client privacy rights
Under the GLB, financial institutions must provide their clients a privacy notice that explains what information the company gathers about the client, where this information is shared, and how the company safeguards that information. This privacy notice must be given to the client prior to entering into an agreement to do business. There are exceptions to this when the client accepts a delayed receipt of the notice in order to complete a transaction on a timely basis. This has been somewhat mitigated due to online acknowledgement agreements requiring the client to read or scroll through the notice and check a box to accept terms.
The privacy notice must also explain to the customer the opportunity to ‘opt-out’. Opting out means that the client can say "no" to allowing their information to be shared with affiliated parties. The Fair Credit Reporting Act is responsible for the ‘opt-out’ opportunity, but the privacy notice must inform the customer of this right under the GLB. The client cannot opt-out of:
- information shared with those providing priority service to the financial institution
- marketing of products or services for the financial institution
- when the information is deemed legally required.
The Safeguards Rule requires financial institutions to develop a written information security plan that describes how the company is prepared for, and plans to continue to protect clients’ nonpublic personal information. (The Safeguards Rule applies to information of any consumers past or present of the financial institution's products or services.) This plan must include:
- Denoting at least one employee to manage the safeguards,
- Constructing a thorough risk analyis on each department handling the nonpublic information,
- Develop, monitor, and test a program to secure the information, and
- Change the safeguards as needed with the changes in how information is collected, stored, and used.
This rule is intended to do what most businesses should already be doing: protecting their clients. The Safeguards Rule forces financial institutions to take a closer look at how they manage private data and to do a risk analysis on their current processes. No process is perfect, so this has meant that every financial institution has had to make some effort to comply with the GLB.
Pretexting (sometimes referred to as "social engineering") occurs when someone tries to gain access to personal nonpublic information without proper authority to do so. This may entail requesting private information while impersonating the account holder, by phone, by mail, by email, or even by "phishing" (i.e., using a phony website or email to collect data). The GLB encourages the organizations covered by the GLB to implement safeguards against pretexting. For example, a well-written plan designed to meet GLB's Safeguards Rule ("develop, monitor, and test a program to secure the information") would likely include a section on training employees to recognize and deflect inquiries made under pretext. In fact, the evaluation of the effectiveness of such employee training probably should include a follow-up program of random spot-checks, "outside the classroom", after completion of the [initial] employee training, in order to check on the resistance of a given (randomly chosen) student to various types of "social engineering" -- perhaps even designed to focus attention on any new wrinkle that might have arisen after the [initial] effort to "develop" the curriculum for such employee training. Under United States law, pretexting by individuals is punishable as a common law crime of False Pretenses.
Effect on usury law in Arkansas & other states
Section 731 of the GLB, codified as subsection (f) of 12 U.S.C. § 1831u, contains a unique provision aimed at Arkansas, whose usury limit was set at five percent above the Federal Reserve discount rate by the Arkansas Constitution and could not be changed by the Arkansas General Assembly. When the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency ruled that interstate banks established under the Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking and Branching Efficiency Act of 1994 could use their home state's usury law for all branches nationwide with minimal restrictions, Arkansas-based banks were placed at a severe competitive disadvantage to Arkansas branches of interstate banks; this led to out-of-state takeovers of several Arkansas banks, including the sale of First Commercial Bank (then Arkansas' largest bank) to Regions Financial Corporation in 1998.
Under Section 731, all banks headquartered in a state covered by that law may charge up to the highest usury limit of any state that is headquarters to an interstate bank which has branches in the covered state. Therefore, since Arkansas has branches of banks based in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas, any loan that is legal under the usury laws of any of those states may be made by an Arkansas-based bank under Section 731. The section does not apply to interstate banks with branches in the covered state, but headquartered elsewhere; however, Arkansas-based interstate banks like Arvest Bank may export their Section 731 limits to other states.
Due to Section 731, it is generally regarded that Arkansas-based banks now have no usury limit for credit cards or for any loan of greater than $2,000 (since Alabama, Regions' home state, has no limits on those loans), with a limit of 18% (the minimum usury limit in Texas) or more on all other loans. However, once Wells Fargo fully completes its proposed purchase of Century Bank (a Texas bank with Arkansas branches), Section 731 will do away with all usury limits for Arkansas-based banks since Wells Fargo's main bank charter is based in South Dakota, which repealed its usury laws many years ago.
Though designed for Arkansas, Section 731 may also apply to Alaska and California whose constitutions provide for the same basic usury limit, though unlike Arkansas their legislatures can (and generally do) set different limits. If Section 731 applies to those states, then all their usury limits are inapplicable to banks based in those states, since Wells Fargo has branches in both states.
Many believe that the Act directly helped cause the 2007 subprime mortgage financial crisis. President Barack Obama has stated that GLB led to deregulation that, among other things, allowed for the creation of giant financial supermarkets that could own investment banks, commercial banks and insurance firms, something banned since the Great Depression. Its passage, critics also say, cleared the way for companies that were too big and intertwined to fail. Economists Robert Ekelund and Mark Thornton have also criticized the Act as contributing to the crisis. They state that "in a world regulated by a gold standard, 100% reserve banking, and no FDIC deposit insurance" the Financial Services Modernization Act would have made "perfect sense" as a legitimate act of deregulation, but under the present fiat monetary system it "amounts to corporate welfare for financial institutions and a moral hazard that will make taxpayers pay dearly."
Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has also argued that the Act helped to create the crisis. An article in the liberal publication The Nation asserted that the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act was responsible for the creation of entities that took on more risk due to their being considered “too big to fail."
According to a 2009 policy report from the libertarian Cato Institute authored by one of the institute's directors, Mark A. Calabria, critics of the legislation feared that, with the allowance for mergers between investment and commercial banks, GLB allowed the newly-merged banks to take on riskier investments while at the same time removing any requirements to maintain enough equity, exposing the assets of its banking customers.[non-primary source needed] Calabria claimed that, prior to the passage of GLB in 1999, investment banks were already capable of holding and trading the very financial assets claimed to be the cause of the mortgage crisis, and were also already able to keep their books as they had. He concluded that greater access to investment capital as many investment banks went public on the market explains the shift in their holdings to trading portfolios. Calabria noted that after GLB passed, most investment banks did not merge with depository commercial banks, and that in fact, the few banks that did merge weathered the crisis better than those that did not.
In February 2009, one of the act's co-authors, former Senator Phil Gramm, also defended his bill:
[I]f GLB was the problem, the crisis would have been expected to have originated in Europe where they never had Glass–Steagall requirements to begin with. Also, the financial firms that failed in this crisis, like Lehman, were the least diversified and the ones that survived, like J.P. Morgan, were the most diversified. Moreover, GLB didn't deregulate anything. It established the Federal Reserve as a superregulator, overseeing all Financial Services Holding Companies. All activities of financial institutions continued to be regulated on a functional basis by the regulators that had regulated those activities prior to GLB.
Bill Clinton, as well as economists Brad DeLong and Tyler Cowen have all argued that the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act softened the impact of the crisis.Atlantic Monthly columnist Megan McArdle has argued that if the act was "part of the problem, it would be the commercial banks, not the investment banks, that were in trouble" and repeal would not have helped the situation. An article in the conservative publication, National Review, has made the same argument, calling liberal allegations about the Act “folk economics.”