Press Releases



ATA welcomes Natasha Pennington to their leadership team as the firm’s Director of Human Resources. Bringing more than 15 years of personnel experience to her role, Natasha will execute human resource strategies in support of the overall business plan and strategic direction of the firm, specifically in the areas of employee relations, compliance, HR administration, recruitment & talent acquisition, compensation, benefits, performance management, and HR technology.

“Natasha is an effective communicator and possesses many great qualities for her role at ATA,” said John Whybrew, managing partner of ATA. “I am confident Natasha will be a tremendous asset to help manage our team and streamline our operations.”

Previously, Natasha was an HR Manager with ATA Employment Solutions, ATA’s human resource management partner. Natasha’s career has provided ample opportunity for learning and development.  She is a member of The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) and is a SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP). She is also a member of the West Tennessee SHRM chapter (WTSHRM).

“I am passionate about people and learning what motivates them in their careers,” said Pennington. “I’m excited to be part of ATA to support and further develop its human resource strategies.”

Natasha earned a Master of Science degree in Human Resources as well as a Graduate Certificate in Organizational Leadership and Human Resources Management from Chapman University System. She also received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Industry Analysis from the University of Redlands.

Natasha received the Volunteer of the Year award in 2016 for her active involvement with Canine Support Teams and their Pawz for Wounded Veterans program. She previously served on the Obion County Chamber of Commerce board in 2020/2021. She is a graduate of the Class of 2019 Adult Leadership Obion County and currently serves on the board as vice president.

Pennington moved to Tennessee from Southern California in 2017. Natasha said, “My husband and I love Tennessee, and we love living and working in Obion County. Moving to Tennessee is one of the best decisions we have ever made!”

Natasha values her faith and family above all, but in her free time, she enjoys fishing, hiking, kayaking, working on her hobby farm, and doing anything adventurous or outdoors.


About ATA

ATA is an advisory firm that works with clients on all aspects of their business needs. ATA guides its clients towards success by providing consulting services that are not traditionally associated with the accounting industry. For example, Revolution Partners, ATA’s wealth management entity provides financial planning expertise; ATA Technologies provides trustworthy IT solutions; ATA Digital focuses on growth through the design and development of marketing and digital products as well as offers video, social media, and digital content for small businesses; ATA Capital is an investment banking firm dedicated to providing clients with M&A brokerage services; and lastly, ATA Employment Solutions is a comprehensive human resource management agency.

ATA has 16 office locations in Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky and Mississippi. Recognized as an IPA Top 150 regional accounting firm, it provides a wide array of accounting, auditing, tax and consulting services for clients ranging from small family-owned businesses to publicly traded companies and international corporations. ATA is also an alliance member of BDO USA LLP, a top five global accounting firm, which provides additional resources and expertise for clients.


Estimated Tax Payments

If you make estimated tax payments, be aware that April 15 isn’t just the 2023 tax filing deadline. It’s also the deadline for the first estimated tax payment for 2024. Estimated tax payments are generally made by self-employed people, retirees, investors, businesses and others that don’t have taxes withheld from their income. The payments are also made by employees who don’t withhold enough tax to pay what’s due.

Taxpayers who don’t make estimated payments (or don’t make sufficient payments) may be subject to failure-to-pay penalties. Exceptions apply to certain taxpayers. The second estimated payment for 2024 will be due June 15. For more information:


The tax deadline is almost here: File for an extension if you’re not ready

The April 15 tax filing deadline is right around the corner. However, you might not be ready to file. Sometimes, it’s not possible to gather your tax information by the due date. If you need more time, you should file for an extension on Form 4868. An extension will give you until October 15 to file and allows you to avoid “failure-to-file” penalties. However, it only provides extra time to file, not to pay. Whatever tax you estimate is owed must still be sent by April 15, or you’ll incur penalties — and as you’ll see below, they can be steep. Two different penalties Separate penalties apply for failing to pay and failing to file.

The failure-to-pay penalty runs at 0.5% for each month (or part of a month) the payment is late. For example, if payment is due April 15 and is made May 25, the penalty is 1% (0.5% times 2 months or partial months). The maximum penalty is 25%. The failure-to-pay penalty is based on the amount shown as due on the return (less amounts paid through withholding or estimated payments), even if the actual tax bill turns out to be higher.

On the other hand, if the actual tax bill turns out to be less, the penalty is based on the lower amount. The failure-to-file penalty runs at the more severe rate of 5% per month (or partial month) of lateness to a maximum 25%. If you file for an extension on Form 4868, you’re not filing late unless you miss the extended due date. However, as mentioned earlier, a filing extension doesn’t apply to your responsibility for payment. If the 0.5% failure-to-pay penalty and the failure-to-file penalty both apply, the failure-to-file penalty drops to 4.5% per month (or part) so the combined penalty is 5%. The maximum combined penalty for the first five months is 25%. Thereafter, the failure-to-pay penalty can continue at 0.5% per month for 45 more months (an additional 22.5%).

Thus, the combined penalties can reach a total of 47.5% over time. The failure-to-file penalty is also more severe because it’s based on the amount required to be shown on the return, and not just the amount shown as due. (Credit is given for amounts paid through withholding or estimated payments. If no amount is owed, there’s no penalty for late filing.) For example, if a return is filed three months late showing $5,000 owed (after payment credits), the combined penalties would be 15%, which equals $750. If the actual liability is later determined to be an additional $1,000, the failure-to-file penalty (4.5% × 3 = 13.5%) would also apply to this amount for an additional $135 in penalties. A minimum failure-to-file penalty also applies if a return is filed more than 60 days late. This minimum penalty is the lesser of $485 (for returns due after December 31, 2023) or the amount of tax required to be shown on the return.

Exemption in certain cases Both penalties may be excused by the IRS if lateness is due to “reasonable cause” such as death or serious illness in the immediate family. Interest is assessed at a fluctuating rate announced by the government apart from and in addition to the above penalties. Furthermore, in particularly abusive situations involving a fraudulent failure to file, the late filing penalty can jump to 15% per month, with a 75% maximum.

If you have questions about filing Form 4868 or IRS penalties, contact us. © 2024


Employee or Independent Contractor? A Guide to the New Rule

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) published a final rule on January 10, 2024, significantly revising its guidance on the classification of workers under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) as either employees or independent contractors, which took effect on March 11, 2024. This rule aims to provide clearer analysis for determining a worker’s classification and is designed to be more aligned with long-standing judicial precedents. The objective is to mitigate the risk of misclassifying employees as independent contractors, which can deprive workers of minimum wage, overtime pay, and other FLSA protections, while also offering a consistent framework for businesses engaging individuals who operate independently​​.

The final rule applies the following six factors to analyze employee or independent contractor status under the FLSA:

(1) opportunity for profit or loss depending on managerial skill;

(2) investments by the worker and the potential employer;

(3) degree of permanence of the work relationship;

(4) nature and degree of control;

(5) extent to which the work performed is an integral part of the potential employer’s business; and

(6) skill and initiative.

Per the DOL, the final rule provides detailed guidance regarding the application of each of these six factors. No factor or set of factors among this list of six has a predetermined weight, and additional factors may be relevant if such factors in some way indicate whether the worker is in business for themself (i.e., an independent contractor), as opposed to being economically dependent on the employer for work (i.e., an employee under the FLSA).

The background and motivation for this update stem from the original intentions of the FLSA, which was enacted in 1938 to establish critical worker protections. The misclassification of employees as independent contractors has been a persistent challenge, leading to situations where workers might not receive rightful employment benefits, including overtime pay, workers’ compensation insurance, employment taxes, and benefits costs. This misclassification also affects organizational obligations and flexibility in workforce management. The DOL emphasizes that the classification of independent contractors should be narrow under FLSA interpretation to prevent circumvention of employment laws​​.

The introduction of this rule reflects the DOL’s commitment to ensuring that labor laws are appropriately applied to protect workers while also providing clear guidance for employers. By revising the classification guidance, the DOL intends to address and reduce the incidences of misclassification, ensuring that workers are correctly categorized and thereby receive the protections and benefits to which they are entitled under the law​​.

For more detailed information on the new rule and its implications, you can visit the U.S. Department of Labor’s website and other legal analyses provided by labor and employment law experts.

Financial Institutions and Banking

Bank Wire: BNPL Loans: Managing the Risk

In a recent bulletin, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) offers guidance to community banks on managing the risks associated with buy now, pay later (BNPL) loans. These loans can take many forms, but the bulletin focuses on those that are payable in four or fewer installments and carry no finance charges. Typically, these loans are offered at the point of sale. The lender pays the merchant a discounted price for the good or service and, in exchange, assumes responsibility for granting credit and collecting payments from the borrower. The lender’s primary source of revenue is the difference between the total installment payments and the discounted purchase price, though it may also collect late fees from the borrower.

The bulletin warns banks of various risks associated with BNPL loans. For example, borrowers may overextend themselves or not fully understand their repayment obligations; applicants with limited or no credit history may present underwriting challenges; and the lack of clear, standardized disclosure language may obscure the true nature of the loan, creating a risk of violating prohibitions against unfair, deceptive or abusive acts or practices. The OCC offers tips on designing risk management systems that “capture the unique characteristics and risks of BNPL loans.” You can find the bulletin at

Guidance on venture loans

In another recent bulletin, the OCC offers guidance to banks considering venture lending — that is, commercial lending activities that target high-risk borrowers in the early, expansion, or late stages of development. According to the bulletin, the primary risks associated with venture lending include unproven cash flows, untested business models, difficulty projecting future cash flows, high liquidity needs, high investment spending, and limited refinancing or business exit options.

Typically, these risks are greater for borrowers at an earlier stage of development. The bulletin — which can be found at — provides guidance on managing these risks.

CFPB proposal would close overdraft loophole

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently issued a proposed rule designed to rein in excessive overdraft fees charged by large banks. The proposal would end the exemption of overdraft lending services from the Truth in Lending Act and other consumer protection laws.

Banks would be permitted to extend overdraft loans if they comply with the requirements of these laws or, alternatively, charge a fee to recoup their costs at an established benchmark (as low as $3) or at a cost they calculate (provided they show their cost data). The proposed rule would apply only to insured financial institutions with more than $10 billion in assets, but it may be expanded to smaller institutions in the future.

© 2024

Financial Institutions and Banking

Staying Atop the New-and-Improved CRA Rules

Final rules to strengthen and modernize the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) were unveiled by the Federal Reserve, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) late last year. Among other things, the new rules strive to adapt the CRA regulations to changes in the banking industry, including the expanded role of mobile and online banking.

At nearly 1,500 pages, the new rules are complex. Fortunately, with the exception of provisions that are similar to current CRA regulations, banks have until January 1, 2026, to comply. All banks should reevaluate their CRA programs in light of the new rules, and prepare for any necessary adjustments.

CRA in a nutshell

The CRA encourages banks to help meet the credit needs of the communities in which they operate — including low and moderate-income neighborhoods — consistent with safe and sound banking operations. To monitor compliance, the federal banking agencies periodically evaluate banks’ records in meeting their communities’ credit needs and make their performance evaluations and CRA ratings available to the public. The agencies take a bank’s CRA rating into account when considering requests to approve bank mergers, acquisitions, charters, branch openings and deposit facilities. A bank’s CRA rating may also affect its reputation in the community.

Highlights of the new rules

CRA evaluation standards vary depending on a bank’s size. The new rules increase the asset size thresholds as follows:

  • Small banks are defined as those with less than $600 million in assets (up from $357 million).
  • Intermediate banks are those with $600 million but less than $2 billion in assets (up from $1.503 billion).
  • Large banks are those with $2 billion or more in assets (up from $1.503 billion).

The final rules create a new evaluation framework that rates a bank’s CRA performance based on four tests: 1) a retail lending test, 2) a community development financing test, 3) a community development services test, and 4) a retail products and services test. These new tests, which are more stringent than existing standards, have varying applicability depending on a bank’s asset size.

Small banks will be evaluated under the current “small bank lending test,” though they may opt into the new retail lending test. Intermediate banks will be subject to the new retail lending test — plus, they’ll have the option of having their community development loans and investments evaluated under the existing community development test or the new community development financing test. Finally, large banks will be evaluated under all four new tests.

Rules matter

As before, banks of all sizes will still be able to request an evaluation under an approved strategic plan. The new rules also provide for the evaluation of lending by certain large banks outside traditional assessment areas generated by the growth of new delivery systems, such as online and mobile banking. Staying current with the latest CRA rules will help your bank pass the tests and maintain its good standing over time.

© 2024

Financial Institutions and Banking

Federal Court: Financial Institution Liable for ACH Fraud Losses

In a recent case — Studco Building Systems US, LLC v. 1st Advantage Federal Credit Union — the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia held a credit union liable for more than $500,000 in fraudulent ACH payments deposited into a member’s account and quickly withdrawn. The payments were the result of a business email compromise scam. There was little or no evidence that the credit union had actual knowledge of the scam. But the court found that such knowledge was imputed to the credit union based on real-time alerts from its anti-money laundering system and various red flags indicating that the account was being used for fraudulent purposes.

Compromised email scam

The plaintiff in Studco was a manufacturer of commercial metal building products. A supplier informed the plaintiff that it would be sending a change in banking instructions. However, a third party, which had gained access to the plaintiff’s email system, prevented the plaintiff from receiving the legitimate email from the supplier with the new banking instructions. Instead, the third party sent the plaintiff a spoofed email, purportedly from the supplier, instructing it to direct future payments to a personal account at the defendant credit union. Neither the plaintiff nor its supplier had accounts at the credit union.

Over the next few weeks, the plaintiff made four ACH deposits — totaling $558,869 — that named its supplier as beneficiary but listed the account number for the personal account created by the scammers. The individual owner of that account quickly dispersed all the funds. Although the credit union declined to make attempted international wire transfers from the account — based on Office of Foreign Assets Control alerts — it didn’t otherwise stop activity into or out of the account.

The credit union’s computer system automatically generates warnings for ACH transactions when, as in this case, the identified payee doesn’t exactly match the name of the receiving account holder. However, the system generates “hundreds to thousands” of these warnings per day, the majority of which aren’t significant, so the credit union’s personnel doesn’t actively monitor them.

Court decision

The court said, under the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) as adopted by Virginia, the plaintiff had the right to recover the fraudulent ACH deposits received by the credit union if it showed that the credit union “‘[knew] that the name and [account] number’ of the incoming ACHs from [the plaintiff] ‘identif[ied] different persons.’” According to the UCC, “know” means “actual knowledge,” defined as follows:

Actual knowledge of information received by the organization is effective for a particular transaction from the time it is brought to the attention of the individual conducting that transaction and, in any event, from the time it would have been brought to the individual’s attention if the organization had exercised due diligence. [Emphasis added]

The UCC further provides that an organization exercises due diligence if it “maintains reasonable routines for communicating significant information to the person conducting the transaction and there is reasonable compliance with the routines.”

In Studco, the court held that the credit union would have discovered the mismatch between the intended payee and the recipient if it had exercised due diligence. Evidence at trial showed that the credit union failed to do so. Among other things:

  • The credit union allowed the recipient to open the account even though it triggered an “ID verification warning,” stating that the system was unable to verify the address provided.
  • The credit union failed to establish a reasonable routine for monitoring suspicious activity alerts. It wasn’t reasonable to ignore those alerts because of their sheer volume. The credit union could have implemented a system to “escalate pertinent alerts of high-value transactions.”
  • It was unreasonable for the credit union to allow the deposits into the personal account, which was a new account that had a small starting balance followed by multiple high-value transactions.

The court essentially applied a “knew or should have known” standard that’s a departure from the “actual knowledge” standard used by many courts. (See “What other courts have said” on page X.) As the court explained, the credit union couldn’t “ignore their own systems to prevent fraud in order to claim that they did not have actual knowledge of said fraud.”

Stay tuned

It remains to be seen whether the Studco case is an aberration, or whether it heralds a shift in how courts view financial institutions’ responsibility to monitor ACH transactions for potential fraud. The credit union has appealed the decision to the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Sidebar: What other courts have said

Before Studco (see main article), most courts have focused on a bank’s state of knowledge at the time an ACH payment is credited to the recipient’s account. They point to language in the Uniform Commercial Code regarding misdescription of the beneficiary: “If the beneficiary’s bank does not know that the name and number refer to different persons, it may rely on the number as the proper identification of the beneficiary of the order. The beneficiary’s bank need not determine whether the name and number refer to the same person.” As the comments to this provision explain, “It is possible for the beneficiary’s bank to determine whether the name and number refer to the same person, but if a duty to make that determination is imposed on the beneficiary’s bank the benefits of automated payment are lost.”

In Shapiro v. Wells Fargo Bank, a case with similar facts to Studco, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that it wasn’t unreasonable for Wells Fargo to allow its automated payment system to ignore a potential name mismatch and rely on the number as the proper identification.

© 2024

Financial Institutions and Banking

FAQs About Selling Mortgages on the Secondary Market

In an increasingly volatile marketplace, community banks need to be resourceful to take advantage of strategies that can help them maintain profitability and stability over time. Selling mortgage loans that your bank originated to secondary market investors can create a much-needed influx of cash, but it’s important to understand and mitigate the risks.

How did we get here?

Traditionally, community banks that participated in the secondary market were brokers, originating mortgages closed on behalf of larger financial institutions. In 2013, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) finalized new loan originator compensation rules, which substantially limited the fees a broker could earn.

Since then, many community banks, in an effort to enhance noninterest income, have begun originating mortgages on their own behalf and then selling them to secondary market investors.

What are the risks?

Community banks that move away from the broker role and originate their own loans increase their risk exposure. For one thing, they become subject to CFPB rules, including the Ability-to-Repay (ATR) and Qualified Mortgage (QM) rules, which were revised in April 2021 with a mandatory compliance date of October 1, 2022. Even after selling a loan to the secondary market, a bank remains liable under these rules. A bank might even be required to buy back the loan years later if it’s determined that it failed to properly evaluate the borrower’s ability to repay or to meet qualified mortgage standards.

To mitigate these risks, it’s important for banks to develop or update underwriting policies, procedures and internal controls to ensure compliance with the revised ATR and QM rules. It’s also critical for banks to have loan officers and other personnel in place with the skill and training necessary to implement the rules.

Moreover, there’s a risk that contracts to sell mortgages to the secondary market will have a negative effect on a bank’s regulatory capital. Often, these contracts contain credit-enhancing representations and warranties, under which the seller assumes some of the risk of default or nonperformance. Generally, these exposures must be reported and risk-weighted (using one of several approaches) on a bank’s call reports. In turn, this can increase the amount of capital or reserves the bank is required to maintain.

Will updated Basel III rules add risk?

In addition, the Basel III capital rules are currently being updated to reduce operational risk in banks. The update was made in response, in part, to several 2023 regional bank failures largely caused by inadequate levels of capital. Known as the Basel III endgame, the update is somewhat controversial because some see its requirements as excessively stringent. Currently, the Basel III endgame is scheduled to take effect July 1, 2025, and will phase in the capital ratio impact over three years.

Among other things, the updated rules would reduce banks’ ability to use their own models for calculating capital requirements for loans. Banks would instead be required to use standardized measures and models to evaluate loan risks.

Stay vigilant.

Community banks have much to gain by selling their mortgage loans to the secondary market, but only if they fully understand and take steps to mitigate the potential problems. Staying on top of the latest regulatory updates and developing proper procedures and internal controls will help ensure the rewards outweighs the risks.

© 2024