Santander’s CRA rating upgraded to ‘outstanding’

Four years after receiving a “needs to improve” grade on its Community Reinvestment Act examination, Santander Bank in Bostom has earned an “outstanding” rating from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

The agency gave Boston-based Santander particularly high marks for its mortgage and small-business lending, as well as its community development activities, the bank said in a press release Friday. The assessment, which the OCC has not yet made public, covered the 2017 to 2019 CRA exam period, Santander said.

The improvement in its CRA rating is welcome news for the the U.S. arm of Spain’s Banco Santander, which has worked to resolve a number of regulatory issues in recent years. In 2017, the OCC cited legal issues with its lending practices when it downgraded Santander Bank from “satisfactory” to “needs to improve” for a period covering 2011 to 2013. Santander raised that to a “satisfactory” in 2018 for a period covering 2014 to 2016.

“Of the many operational improvements that Santander has made in recent years, receiving an outstanding assessment of our Community Reinvestment Act efforts is particularly meaningful,” said Santander US CEO Tim Wennes.

The regulator gave the $89.5 billion-asset Santander high marks for its overall lending activity, such as offering affordable mortgage products, and its investment strategy, which includes the use of low-income housing tax credits.

“The OCC noted that these are complex transactions that deliver substantial impact to low- and moderate-income individuals and communities in the form of affordable housing,” Santander said of the tax credits.

Santander has put several other regulatory matters behind it recently. Earlier this month, the Federal Reserve terminated a 2017 enforcement action against the U.S. holding company concerning oversight of its auto lending unit, Santander Consumer. In December, it paid a $4.7 million penalty to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to settle charges that it had knowingly supplied the three major credit bureaus with inaccurate consumer credit data.

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