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Bulletin B-09-1

TO:                  All Tennessee State Chartered Banks
SUBJECT:       Closing of Bank Offices - TCA §45-2-603 and §45-2-604
DATE:             August 5, 2009
This bulletin is intended to address specifically the issue of suspending bank office activity in response to possible H1N1 (swine flu) outbreaks and more generally to emergency powers of banks in response to disasters.  Additionally, this bulletin provides certain guidance should a Tennessee state bank close certain offices under the authority of TCA §45-2-603 and §45-2-604 in the discretion of its directorate and management.

Banks organized under the laws of the State of Tennessee may, at their discretion, temporarily close offices or operations in areas affected by an emergency resulting from fire, act of God, attack by a foreign nation, riot, insurrection, civil disorder or any similar disaster without prior approval of the commissioner in accordance with TCA §45-2-603 and §45-2-604.

The Department of Financial Institutions considers bank determinations that H1N1 outbreaks pose legitimate health risks to the general public or significantly impacts the ability of a banking institution to maintain an appropriate level of personnel on site to meet customer needs to be included among any “similar disaster” as referenced in TCA §45-2-603.  Other events may also be included among any similar disaster, and the directorate and executive management are encouraged to use reasonable discretion in applying TCA §45-2-603 and §45-2-604.  However, the safety of institution personnel and local citizens are of paramount importance when evaluating the appropriateness of closing offices. 

We encourage institutions to carefully monitor and consider any guidance issued by state and federal government authorities regarding such events.  While TCA §45-2-603 and §45-2-604 do not require the Department’s prior approval for office closings in certain events, we do encourage institutions to notify both the Department as well as their primary federal regulator in as timely a manner as reasonably possible in the event of such a closing.  Additionally, institutions should make a reasonable effort, in consideration of the public safety, to notify and accommodate customers.

This bulletin shall serve as notice that no specific prior approval from the Department is required for Tennessee state-chartered banks to be closed more than two consecutive business days should a Tennessee state-chartered bank, in its discretion, determine it is necessary to temporarily close the bank or an office of the bank in accordance with TCA §45-2-603 and §45-2-604, pursuant to an H1N1 outbreak or similar disaster.

Banks should be advised; however, that if the Federal Reserve is open that the Federal Reserve may continue to present cash items to banks even if a particular bank has exercised its discretion to close the bank or one of its offices in accordance with TCA §45-2-603 and §45-2-604.  Please contact your respective Federal Reserve branch for further guidance.

Questions regarding this Bulletin should be addressed to Tod K. Trulove, Assistant Commissioner – Bank Division, at 615/741-6013 or Tina G. Miller, General Counsel, at 615/532-1030.

Greg Gonzales