The Federal Reserve’s Dodd-Frank enhanced prudential standards (“EPS”) final rule requires a foreign banking organization with $50 billion or more in U.S. non-branch/agency assets (“Foreign Bank”) to place virtually all of its U.S. subsidiaries underneath a top-tier U.S. intermediate holding company (“IHC”). The IHC will be subject to U.S. Basel III, capital planning, Dodd-Frank stress testing, liquidity, risk management requirements and other U.S. EPS on a consolidated basis.
Posts Tagged ‘Banks’
On March 20, 2014, the Federal Reserve announced the summary results of the Dodd-Frank Act 2014 supervisory stress tests for the 30 largest U.S. banking organizations. The results demonstrate the sharply enhanced capital strength and resiliency of the U.S. banking system. Under an “extreme stress scenario”, these U.S. banking organizations could absorb an extraordinary downturn in “pre-provision net revenues” and an unprecedented level of loan losses and still maintain capital levels well above minimum regulatory requirements and almost 40% above the actual capital ratios in 2009.
U.S. banking regulation resembles a cat-and-mouse game of industry change and regulatory response. Often, a crisis or industry innovation will lead to a new regulatory regime. Past regulatory regimes have included geographic restrictions, activity restrictions, disclosure mandates, risk management rules, and capital requirements. But the recently enacted Dodd-Frank Act introduced a new strain of banking-industry supervision: regulation by hypothetical. Regulation by hypothetical refers to rules that require banks to predict future crises and weaknesses. Those predictions—which by definition are speculative—become the basis for regulatory intervention. Two illustrative instances of this regulation were codified in Dodd-Frank: stress tests and living wills. They are two pillars on which Dodd-Frank builds to manage risk in systemically important financial institutions (SIFIs).  As I argue in my forthcoming article, regulation by hypothetical in Dodd-Frank should be abandoned for three reasons: it relies on a faulty premise, tasks an agency with a conflicted mission, and likely exacerbates the moral hazards involved with governmental sponsorship of private institutions. Because of these weaknesses, the regulation-by-hypothetical regime must be either abandoned (my first choice) or strengthened. One way to strengthen these hypothetical scenarios would be to conduct financial war games.
The financial industry is heavily regulated. Whether it is in terms of spending or number of employees, financial regulation represents more than a third of all business- and industry-related regulation in the United States (De Rugy and Warren, 2009), even though the financial sector only contributes to 10% of the country’s GDP. However, many commentators express grave doubts about the current efficacy of financial regulation. For example, The Economist published a 2010 article entitled “Finance’s other bosses” in which it asked: “Does it really matter who is in charge of the regulators? The grunt work of supervision depends on more junior staff, who will always struggle to keep tabs on smarter, better-paid types in the firms they regulate.”
In a comment letter and supporting paper to the FDIC on its single-point-of-entry (SPOE) resolution concept release, Karen Shaw Petrou, managing partner of Federal Financial Analytics, argues that SPOE is conceptually sound and statutorily robust. However, progress to date on orderly liquidation has been so cautious as to cloud the credibility of assertions that the largest U.S. financial institutions, especially the biggest banks, are no longer too big to fail (“TBTF”). Crafting a new resolution regime is of course a complex undertaking that benefits from as much consensus as possible. However, if definitive action is not quickly taken on a policy construct for single-point-of-entry resolutions resolving high-level questions about its practicality and functionality under stress, markets will revert to TBTF expectations that renew market distortions, place undue competitive pressure on small firms, and stoke systemic risk. Even more dangerous, the FDIC may not be ready when systemic risk strikes again.
Questions addressed in detail in the paper and Ms. Petrou’s answers to them are summarized below:
In the paper, Breaking Bad? Too-Big-To-Fail Banks Not Guilty As Not Charged, forthcoming in the Washington University Law Review, Vol. 91, No. 4, 2014, I focus on the benefits that the largest financial institutions receive because they are too-big-to-fail. Since the 2008 financial crisis, rating agencies, regulators, global organizations, and academics have argued that large banks receive significant competitive advantages because the market still perceives them as likely to be saved in a future financial crisis. The most significant advantage is a government implicit subsidy, which stems from this market perception and enables the largest banks to borrow at lower interest rates. And while government subsidies were the subject of a November 2013 Government Accounting Office report, in the paper I focus on a specific aspect of the benefits the largest banks receive: the economic advantages resulting from exempting the largest financial institutions from criminal statutes. I argue that this exemption—which has been widely discussed in the media over the last few years, following several scandals involving large financial institutions—not only contributes to the subsidies’ economic value, but also creates incentives for unethical and even criminal activity.
The Federal Reserve has issued a final rule adopting a tiered approach for applying Dodd-Frank enhanced prudential standards to foreign banking organizations (“FBOs”). Under the tiered approach the most burdensome requirements (e.g., the requirement to establish a top-tier U.S. intermediate holding company) will only apply to FBOs with large U.S. operations, whereas fewer requirements will apply to FBOs with limited U.S. footprints.
We have summarized below the Dodd-Frank enhanced prudential standards that will apply to the following FBOs with limited U.S. footprints:
A tax on the balance sheets of big banks—first proposed by US President Barack Obama in 2010 but later shelved—is back on the political agenda. Last month Dave Camp, Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, put forward a proposal for tax reform that included a 0.035 per cent levy on bank assets more than $500bn. This would hit large institutions such as Bank of America, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs.
The aim of the Republican plan is to find tax revenue that could be used to offset cuts in income taxes on individuals. Mr. Obama pitched his proposal as a way of raising money from US banks to help repay taxpayers who had to bail them out at the height of the crisis. Neither plan aims to make the financial system safer, and neither would. But with a few alterations, a balance-sheet tax could help strengthen the banks.
This post describes the final regulations issued by the Federal Reserve Board (the “FRB”) on February 18, 2014, that radically modify the former requirements applicable to foreign banking organizations (“FBOs”) pursuant to the FRB’s Regulation K. The final rules (the “Final Rules”) impose various requirements on large FBOs that previously have been applied to large U.S. domestic bank holding companies and banks under the Dodd-Frank Act. In addition, however, the Final Rules also alter many of the former approaches to the regulation of FBOs in general, including the necessity for many FBOs to form “U.S. intermediate holding companies” for their U.S. operations.
Regardless of the category an FBO falls into, the Final Rules present significant additional compliance burdens.
Last week, James Kwak (UConn law professor, co-author of 13 Bankers and White House Burning, and blogger at the Baseline Scenario) provided a nice writeup of some of the key issues I identify in my paper, Understanding the Failures of Market Discipline, recently posted to SSRN. But I wanted to take a few words to provide a slightly more detailed explanation of my work.
“Market discipline”—the notion that short-term creditors (such as bank depositors) can efficiently identify and rein in bank risk—has been a central pillar of banking regulation since the 1980s. Obviously, market discipline did not prevent the buildup of bank risk that caused the recent financial crisis, but the general consensus has been that this failure was due to structural impediments to the effective operation of market discipline—such as misaligned incentives, a lack of transparency, or moral hazard caused by implicit guarantees—rather than any problems with the concept itself. As a result, a major point of emphasis in financial regulatory reform efforts has been to improve and strengthen market discipline.