Where do we go from here? As we mark another milestone in regulatory reform with the fourth anniversary of the enactment of the Dodd-Frank Act, it strikes us that although most studies required to be undertaken by the Act have been released and final rules have been promulgated addressing many of the most important regulatory measures, we are still living with a great deal of regulatory uncertainty and extraordinary regulatory complexity.
Posts Tagged ‘Federal Reserve’
On June 10, 2014, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (the “Federal Reserve”), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (collectively, the “Banking Agencies”) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) released substantially identical Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”) addressing six topics regarding the implementation of section 13 of the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956, as amended, commonly known as the “Volcker Rule.”
The Dodd-Frank Act was undoubtedly a thorough re-working of the regulatory paradigm for banks and other financial institutions. But no less resolute are the intentions of U.S. banking regulators to carry regulatory reform further, based in significant part on perceived “macroprudential” authority after Dodd-Frank. The new regulatory paradigm will increasingly leave behind bank regulation’s traditional moorings in the protection of federally insured deposits and safe and sound operation of banking organizations. Instead, “macroprudential” regulation will rest on the goals of protecting U.S. financial stability and reducing systemic risk—broad, malleable concepts that elude precise definition. It will seek to influence activities not just of banking organizations but also activities conducted by non-bank entities not traditionally subject to prudential regulation. And, according to an important speech given last week by Federal Reserve Governor Daniel K. Tarullo, the new regulatory paradigm embraces consideration of a potentially unprecedented expansion of the fiduciary duties of directors of banking institutions. This would give such directors very potent incentives to prioritize supervisory goals—including macroprudential objectives.
Asset managers who tuned in to last month’s Financial Stability Oversight Council’s (“Council”) conference regarding the industry’s potential systemic importance heard no surprises. The US Treasury Department and regulators did not defend the September 2013 report by the Office of Financial Research (“OFR Report”) which had suggested that the industry’s activities as a whole were systemically important.  Rather, officials continued to emphasize that they hold no predisposition toward designation. It was left to academics at the conference to argue that asset managers could pose systemic risk.
In May 2014, the Federal Reserve issued a proposal that would implement the financial sector concentration limit set forth in Section 622 of the Dodd-Frank Act. The proposal reflects the Financial Stability Oversight Council’s January 2011 Study and Recommendations Regarding Concentration Limits on Large Financial Companies.
The concentration limit generally prohibits a financial company from merging or consolidating with, acquiring all or substantially all of the assets of, or otherwise acquiring control of another company if the “liabilities” of the resulting financial company, calculated using methodologies in the proposal, exceed 10% of aggregate financial sector liabilities.
On March 26th, the Federal Reserve (Fed) announced the results of its annual Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR).  This year the Fed assessed the capital plans of 30 bank holding companies (BHCs)—12 more than last year—and objected to five plans (four due to deficiencies in the quality of capital planning process, and one for falling below quantitative minimum capital ratios). Two other US BHCs had to “take a mulligan” and quickly resubmit their plans with reduced capital actions to remain above the quantitative floors.
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.
Ever since the Treasury Department’s Office of Financial Research (“OFR”) released its report on Asset Management and Financial Stability in September 2013 (“OFR Report” or “Report”), the industry has vigorously opposed its central conclusion that the activities of the asset management industry as a whole make it systemically important and may pose a risk to US financial stability.
Several members of Congress have also voiced concern with the OFR Report’s findings, particularly during recent Congressional hearings, as have commissioners of the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). Further complicating matters, a senior official of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”) recently expressed alarm about banks working with alternative asset managers or shadow banks on “weak” leveraged lending deals.
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.