Ombudsman Policy Statement
Section 309 of the Riegle Community Development and Regulatory Improvement Act of 1994 ("the Act"), 12 U.S.C. 4806, requires the Federal banking agencies to appoint an Ombudsman. Section 309 provides that the Ombudsman:
- is to act as a liaison between the agency and any affected person with respect to any problem such party may have in dealing with the agency resulting from the regulatory activities of the agency; and
- is to ensure that safeguards exist to encourage complainants to come forward and preserve confidentiality.
Responsibility of Ombudsman. The Board believes that the proper role of the Ombudsman under section 309 is to act as a facilitator and mediator for the resolution of complaints. The Ombudsman will ensure that complaints about Board or Reserve Bank regulatory actions are addressed in a fair and timely manner.
Handling of Complaints. When a problem is brought to the attention of the Ombudsman for which there is an existing avenue of appeal or another appropriate forum for resolution, the Ombudsman will explain the process to the complaining party, and direct the party to the appropriate appeals process or forum for the complaint. The Board's rules provide existing mechanisms for resolutions of complaints in many instances, such as: material supervisory determinations pursuant to section 309(a) of the Act; review of actions delegated to the Reserve Banks or Board staff pursuant to 12 C.F.R. Part 265; prompt corrective action directives under section 38 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act; denials or partial denials of Freedom of Information or Privacy Act requests; issuance of capital directives pursuant to 12 C.F.R. 263.80-263.85; decisions with respect to applications; and matters within the jurisdiction of the Board's Inspector General or Federal or State investigatory or prosecutorial authorities.
Where an established appeals process or forum may not be available to resolve the complaint, the Ombudsman will meet with the appropriate Board Division Director, or arrange a meeting between the complainant and the Division Director (with the Ombudsman present when appropriate), and attempt to resolve the problem. If the Ombudsman believes a complaint has not been satisfactorily addressed, the Ombudsman may raise the matter with an appropriate Board Committee for resolution.
Scope of Review. Under section 309, the Ombudsman's role is confined to problems "resulting from the regulatory activities of the agency." The Ombudsman's purview does not encompass internal Board functions such as personnel and procurement. Complaints relating to these functions will be resolved through existing grievance or arbitration procedures. The Ombudsman will not have decision making authority regarding complaints and will not independently review Board or Reserve Bank regulatory action.
Retaliation. The Ombudsman is authorized to receive complaints of retaliation against a party as a result of utilizing the Ombudsman or any existing avenue of appeal or complaint forum. Upon receiving a complaint of retaliation, the Ombudsman will contact all affected parties and consult with the appropriate Division Director or Board Committee, who may authorize such resources as necessary to assist the Ombudsman in reviewing the matter. Upon completion of the review, the Ombudsman will report to the Division Director or Board Committee concerning the review's findings.
With respect to the Board's internal appeals process for material supervisory determinations, the Ombudsman will contact institutions using this process six months after an appeal has been decided and six months after the date of the next examination to inquire whether retaliation has occurred. In the event an institution complains of retaliation, the Ombudsman will initiate the process outlined above to review the matter.
Safeguards. Section 309(d)(2)(B) of the Act requires that the Ombudsman ensure that safeguards exist to encourage complainants to come forward and preserve confidentiality. In the Board's view, the Board's existing avenues of appeal and fora for complaints, the Ombudsman's authority to meet with an appropriate Division Director (or, if necessary, a Board Committee) and a complainant in an attempt to resolve any outstanding problems, as well as the authority of the Ombudsman to review complaints of retaliation, should encourage complainants to come forward.
All information and materials utilized in the Ombudsman's review of a complaint shall be used only for purposes of the review and not disclosed outside of the Ombudsman's office, except to appropriate reviewing officials (the Division Director or Board Committee) or with appropriate authorization. The Ombudsman will honor requests to keep confidential the identity of a complaining party. It must be recognized, however, that the resolution of certain complaints (such as complaints of retaliation against an individual bank) may not be possible should the identity of the party remain confidential. The Board believes these provisions should assist in preserving the confidentiality of complainants and the Ombudsman function.
Procedures. A party may contact the Ombudsman at any time regarding a problem resulting from the regulatory activities of the Board or the Reserve Banks, by calling 1-800-337-0429, or by writing to the Office of the Ombudsman, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Washington, D.C. 20551.
By order of the Board of Governors, effective August 2, 1995.
William W. Wiles
Secretary of the Board