Capital and Credit

Senators Urge Regulators to Assess Risks to U.S. Financial System; Roundtable Leaders Voice Concerns

Sen. Crapo at RER Meeting

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH), above, and 11 other committee members urged Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who oversees the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC), to identify risks and vulnerabilities brought to light during the recent banking crisis and provide regulatory, legislative, or other recommendations. (March 31 Letter and Politico Pro)

Regulatory Action

  • The committee letter called upon the Oversight Council’s members to conduct a thorough assessment that should include traditional, quantifiable risks within prudential regulation, such as liquidity and interest rate risk management of less durable funding sources like non-core or uninsured deposits, and concentrations in asset classes like commercial real estate & long duration bonds.” (March 31 Letter
  • The Federal Reserve is conducting a separate review of federal banking oversight, with a report expected by May 1 that will recommend regulatory and supervisory actions. Fed Chair Jerome Powell has stated he will support the report’s regulatory recommendations. (Barr congressional testimony, March 30 and The Hill, March 28)
  • A recent House Financial Services Committee (HFSC) hearing—“The Federal Regulators' Response to Recent Bank Failures”—featured testimony from Federal Reserve Vice Chair for Supervision Michael Barr, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Martin Gruenberg and Treasury Undersecretary for Domestic Finance Nellie Liang.
  • HFSC Chairman Patrick McHenry (R-NC) on March 31 stated, “As we heard from [President] Biden’s own regulators at this week's hearing, supervisory incompetence was the leading cause of the failures. There is no evidence that the original Dodd-Frank would have prevented these bank runs. Additionally, no recent stress test has considered the current economic conditions—most notably the Fed’s rapid rate increases to combat Democrat-induced inflation—that contributed to the fall of these institutions.”

Roundtable Leaders Respond

Walker Webcast April 5, 2023 with Jeff DeBoer

  • Capital concerns affecting commercial and multifamily markets were a focus this week of the Walker Webcast, which featured Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer and National Multifamily Housing Council President Sharon Wilson Géno. Roundtable Member Willy Walker (Chairman & CEO, Walker & Dunlop) led the wide-ranging discussion on April 5, which addressed the federal response to the bank failures, the debt ceiling, and affordable housing. 

  • DeBoer said, “I don’t think anybody assumed a 12-year period of basically zero interest rates, followed by a steep 500bps increase in financing costs, immediately following a once-every-hundred-years pandemic that shut everything down and changed a lot of the ways  . . . (in which) . . . the built environment would be used,” DeBoer said. “I think all of this has to be allowed to settle through.” (Walker Webcast video and Connect CRE, April 5)
  • Similar observations were offered this week by the head of the International Monetary Fund, who cautioned that a more volatile global economy would bring slower growth and greater financial fragility. “There is simply no way that interest rates would go up so much after being low for so long and there would be no vulnerabilities. Something is going to go boom,” IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said. (PoliticoPro, April 6)
  • DeBoer also noted The Roundtable’s recent letter urging federal regulators “to take action immediately to provide increased latitude for financing institutions to work constructively with borrowers. Such action will avert what we believe would be an unnecessary crisis.” (Roundtable Weekly, March 17)

Bill Rudin on Squawk Box April 2023

The challenges facing the industry due to recent interest rate hikes, bank failures, and continued widespread remote work will be a top focus of The Roundtable’s Spring Meeting on April 24-25 in Washington, DC (Roundtable-level members only). 

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Workplace Return

Trepp Shows Influence of Government Remote Work Policies on Office Markets and CMBS Exposure

Federal Office BuildingThe wide-ranging impact of remote government work policies on office occupancy rates and CMBS exposure is the focus of a March 31 Trepp report that analyzed 20 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) with federal, state, and municipal governments as tenants. (TreppTalk, Seeking Office Answers? Look to the Largest Office Tenant… Government

Remote Government Workforces 

  • The federal government is the largest tenant of office spaces throughout the U.S. and its General Services Administration (GSA) leases over 43 million square feet, which equals one-third of the overall market. (Trepp, March 31 and Commercial Observer, Feb. 27)

  • Trepp notes, “The strategy the government deploys to get its workers back to the office will have a cascading effect on the rest of the CRE market.”

  • A recent Washington, DC financial forecast projected tax revenue will plunge nearly a half-billion dollars from 2024-2026 due to remote work’s influence, reduced office transactions, and dropping asset values. (BisNow and DCist, March 1)  

Occupancy Rate Comparison by Geography

Trepp occupancy chart

  • The Trepp table above shows the 20 MSAs with the largest outstanding loan balances for properties that have federal, state, and municipal governments as tenants. (Table data points in Excel here

  • The analysis included 1,365 government-occupied properties across 837 loans, with a total outstanding loan balance of $25.9 billion. The majority of these loans with exposure to one or more government tenants are backed by office or mixed-use properties.

  • Prolonged uncertainty about return-to-office policies for GSA entities may eventually reduce current office space allocations. If government tenants vacate some of their offices, net operating income (NOI) could fall, adding more pressure on the loans that back these properties. 


Empty office

  • The House of Representatives recently passed legislation—the Stopping Home Office Work’s Unproductive Problems (SHOW UP) Act (H.R. 139)—that would require all federal agencies to revert to pre-pandemic telework office arrangements and allow employees 30 days to return to their offices. (GovExec, Feb. 1 and The Hill, Feb. 2)

  • The Real Estate Roundtable wrote to President Joe Biden last December about the need for federal employees to return to their workplaces—and encouraged the administration to support legislation that could incentivize the conversion of underutilized buildings to more productive use such as housing. (Roundtable Weekly, Feb. 3 | GlobeSt and CoStar, Dec. 15, 2022)

  • Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer discussed the remote work issue this week on the Walker Webcast, hosted by Roundtable Member Willy Walker (Chairman & CEO, Walker & Dunlop).

  • DeBoer commented on the impact of employees working from home. “If they’re not downtown, the small businesses suffer. The parking garages suffer. Transportation suffers, safety issues suffer, and the tax base suffers,” he said. “This is why we’re focused on getting people back to the office as much as possible.” (Connect CRE, April 5) 

Trends in remote work, its ongoing impact on commercial real estate markets, and the SHOW UP Act will be topics for discussion during The Roundtable’s Spring Meeting on April 24-25 in Washington, DC (Roundtable-level members only). 

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Beneficial Ownership

Policymakers Urge Treasury to Amend Proposed Beneficial Ownership Rule

Capitol building

Bipartisan groups of House and Senate policymakers recently sent letters urging Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to amend proposed beneficial ownership reporting and access rules, contending certain provisions do not follow congressional intent. (BGov, April 4 and Reuters, April 5)

House “Escape Hatch” Modification

  • Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and a bipartisan, bicameral group of congressional  lawmakers sent a letter on April 3 to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and FinCEN Acting Director Himamauli Das about the Treasury Department’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on beneficial ownership information reporting requirements. (Roundtable Weekly, May 7, 2021)

  • The lawmakers requested that FinCEN amend the proposed rule to adhere to congressional intent and ensure reporting companies cannot avoid transparency.

  • The bipartisan letter states that the NPRM has an “escape hatch” that must be modified. Specifically, the policymakers requested that language allowing reporting parties to enter “Unable to identify…unable to obtain” or “Unknown…not able to obtain” be struck from the proposed rule.

  • Allowing these options in any final rule will degrade the benefits of the registry to law enforcement and to financial institutions and provide an opportunity for bad actors to obscure the identity of the company applicant or beneficial owner,” according to the letter.

Senate Requests

  • A group of six bipartisan Senators also submitted a letter to FinCEN’s Das on March 15 requesting revisions to the beneficial ownership rule. The policymakers requested that the rule (1) track closer to the text of the congressional statute; (2) enhance the utility of a beneficial ownership information (BOI) directory for financial institutions; and (3) remove excessive barriers to accessing the directory by authorized recipients.

  • The Senators’ letter states, “Once the database is live, financial institutions across the country will immediately begin requesting access to BOI for the 32 million reporting companies in the country. It is essential that FinCEN establish an automated process (ideally one that integrates with existing compliance systems at financial institutions) for fielding and responding to these requests.” (Reuters, April 5)

Proposed FinCEN Rules

FINCEN website

  • The CTA amended the Bank Secrecy Act to require corporations, limited liability companies, and similar entities to report certain information about their beneficial owners (the individual natural persons who ultimately own or control the companies).

  • The Roundtable and three other national real estate organizations also submitted detailed comments to FinCEN on May 5, 2021 addressing several implementation concerns related to the beneficial ownership registry. (Roundtable Weekly, May 7, 2021)
  • The coalition document addressed several specific implementation issues, including how small companies targeted by the CTA will face compliance burdens—and the time-consuming and challenging process of gathering required information on all beneficial owners of a reporting company that may have been created years ago.

FinCEN’s BOI directory is scheduled to be operational on January 1, 2024. All guidance material will be made available on FinCEN’s beneficial ownership webpage.

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