Violations of Reg O & the Federal Sentencing Guidelines

In 1973, the U.S. National Bank of San Diego went down in the history books as the first financial institution holding assets in excess of 1 billion dollars. Investigations into the U.S. National Bank discovered that over 400 million dollars in financial loans went to its chief executive officer and his related interests (Osborne, 1998). In the following years other banks began to fail with similar insider dealings being blamed. In 1977, the Safe Banking Act was introduced to deal with some of these cases. After repeated amendments and some eighteen new titles added, the Safe Banking Act of 1977 became known as the financial Institutions Regulatory and Interest Rate Control Act (FIRA). FIRA became a major upgrade to what is known as Regulation O (Reg O). More modifications to Reg O came with the passing of:

  • The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Improvement Act of 1991 (FDICIA);
  • The Housing and Community Development Act of 1992;
  • The Economic Growth and Regulatory Paperwork Reduction Act of 1996 (EGRPRA).

The FDICIA requires that management of certain financial institutions must provide an assessment of their compliance with insider laws and regulations. Regulation O was designed to discourage insider’s from using their positions to secure self serving credit extensions (Osborne, 1998). Violations of Reg O can cost financial institutions a lot of money making non-compliance of Reg O not a suitable option.

Regulation O Violations

Section 215.11 of Regulation O, titled Civil Penalties, states, “Any member bank, or any officer, director, employee, agent, or other person participating in the conduct of the affairs of the bank, that violates and provision of the part (other than section 215.9) is subject to civil penalties as specified in section 29 of the Federal Reserve Act (12 U.S.C. 504) (Federal Register, 2010). Section 29, titled Civil Money Penalty, breaks down violations into three tiers and sets a maximum monetary penalty, per day, for each of the three tiers (Federal Reserve, 2008).

  • Tier 1 - Any member bank which, and any institution-affiliated party with respect to such member bank who, violates any provision of section 22, 23A, or 23B, or any regulation issued pursuant thereto, shall forfeit and pay a civil penalty of not more than $5,000 for each day during which such violation continues.
  • Tier 2 - any member bank who commits any violation that recklessly engages in an unsafe or unsound practice in conducting the affairs of such member bank; or breaches any fiduciary duty; which violation, practice, or breach is part of a pattern of misconduct; causes or is likely to cause more than a minimal loss to such member bank; or results in pecuniary gain or other benefit to such party, shall forfeit and pay a civil penalty of not more than $25,000 for each day during which such violation, practice, or breach continues.
  • Tier 3 - any member bank that engages in any unsafe or unsound practice in conducting the affairs of such credit union; or breaches any fiduciary duty; and knowingly or recklessly causes a substantial loss to such credit union or a substantial pecuniary gain or other benefit to such party by reason of such violation, practice, or breach, shall forfeit and pay a civil penalty in an amount not to exceed the applicable maximum amount of $1,000,000.

Section 29 also sets a maximum fine of no more than 1 million dollars, per day, for any of the three tiers. Each of the three tiers can be used as a measurement of risk based assessments for non-compliance. If an employee within your financial institution knowing places your operations in violation to regulation O then the price for non-compliance can be a very expensive price to pay.

Federal Sentencing Guidelines Section 8

The Federal Sentencing Guidelines Section 8 has a similar structure to Section 29. However, Section 8 goes into much more detail than Section 29. While Section 29’s tiers show how much one has to pay, Section 8 helps determine what tier an organization should fall under buy using what is known as a culpability report. (United States Sentencing Commission, 2004) Section 8, titled Sentencing of Organizations, outlines how the Judicial System should review an organization in violation of law and then determines the level at which they are culpable. This can come in handy when someone within the organization commits a crime. If the organization placed into account internal controls that would have otherwise discovered the crime then the organization could be less culpable than if the organization didn’t show due diligence or due care.


Both Section 29 and Chapter 8 allow organizations the ability to measure their risk by allowing them to understand what the monetary penalties are and what they can do to ensure they are not culpable for non-compliance. These two pieces of legislation are far from perfect and a review should be performed. For now, as compliance officers, knowing the monetary risk for violations and addressing each issue to limit your culpability is a great asset to have and can save the organization a substantial amount of money if a crime was to occur.


Federal Register. (2010, July 1). Title 12: Banks and Banking. Retrieved July 6, 2010, from

Federal Reserve. (2008, August 13). Section 29. Civil Money Penalty. Retrieved July 6, 2010, from

Osborne, P. R. (1998, June). Managing regulation O. Retrieved July 6, 2010, from;col1

United States Sentencing Commission. (2004). 2004 Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Retrieved July 6, 2010, from

By: Joseph Dustin