Banking law in the United States is constantly morphing as a result of significant financial events in recent years. The law covers vast sub-areas of law, in both state and federal levels, and applies to, not just banks, but all financial institutions. Issues arising from banking law range from the most mundane, such as regular customer complaints against banks, to the most complicated, such as complex litigation between domestic and foreign institutions or between domestic banks and foreign governments.
Banking law governs transactions between banks and between banks and its clients. In transactions, banks need the expertise of attorneys to draft legal documents that address the terms extended by all parties and ensure that the bank is not in conflict with relevant consumer protection law.
The bulk of banking law focuses on regulatory compliance. Given the vast number of regulations that are in place for compliance, it is not a surprise that banks and financial institutions seek legal counsel prior to making important decision. The 2008 financial crisis led to the adoption of an important banking law -- the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act -- which includes extensive interpretative regulation and judicial interpretations implementing the changes. This Act alone contains more than 1,500 separate provisions and nearly 400 rule mandates that need to be scrutinized only by those who have in-depth knowledge and experience on the matter. In addition, depending on where they were chartered or how they are operated, banks and financial institutions may be governed by different federal and regulatory agencies.
Compliance to numerous federal and state regulations involves expensive and labor-intensive process, requiring numerous personnel to complete the task. The first step to regulatory compliance would be identifying applicable rules and regulations and ranking them in order of the risk associated with non-compliance. Following this step would be the creation of a compliance plan and its implementation. Effective compliance is comprehensive and involves all operations of the bank. To avoid the risk of violating a particular regulatory provision, the compliance plan should put in place measures that would alert all levels of personnel within the bank of situations that would compromise the institution. Ensuring that an institution is compliant with regulations require an attorney to be both knowledgeable of the relevant law and also the institution's operations. Because compliance is comprehensive, bank personnel must be educated on regulations and kept abreast of changes in the law. It is in this area that banking law attorneys are crucial as they are utilized by banks and financial institutions to educate and provide training to personnel.
In addition to regulatory compliance, one of the most difficult aspect in banking law is defending banks and financial institutions from allegations resulting from regulatory investigations or enforcement actions. Defending banks and financial institutions are made more difficult often because of the power play involved as overzealous regulatory agencies push for companies and their officers and directors to be found guilty of violating regulations. If the compliance issues are not resolved, regulatory agencies may impose strong sanctions, crippling banks and financial institutions. Often, banks opt to litigate, employing not banking law attorneys that are not just experts of the law but also experts in litigation tactics.