The 2015 stress test results published on March 11th as part of the Federal Reserve’s (“Fed”) CCAR follow last week’s release of Dodd-Frank Act Stress Test (“DFAST”) results.  CCAR differs from DFAST by incorporating the 31 participating bank holding companies’ (“BHC” or “bank”) proposed capital actions and the Fed’s qualitative assessment of BHCs’ capital planning processes. The Fed objected to two foreign BHCs’ capital plans and one US BHC received a “conditional non-objection,” all due to qualitative issues.
Posts Tagged ‘Financial institutions’
On February 27, 2015, 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, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (collectively, the “Agencies”) provided an important addition to their existing list of Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”) addressing the implementation of section 13 of the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956, as amended (the “BHC Act”), commonly known as the “Volcker Rule.”
The Volcker Rule imposes broad prohibitions on proprietary trading and investing in and sponsoring private equity funds, hedge funds and certain other investment vehicles (“covered funds”) by “banking entities” and their affiliates. The Volcker Rule, as implemented by the final rule issued by the Agencies (the “Final Rule”), provides an exemption from the covered fund prohibitions for foreign banking entities’ acquisition or retention of an ownership interest in, or sponsorship of, a covered fund “solely outside of the United States” (the “SOTUS covered fund exemption”).
The recent financial crisis has generated fundamental reforms in the financial regulatory system in the U.S. and internationally. In our paper, Enhancing Prudential Standards in Financial Regulations, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we discuss academic research and expert opinions on this vital subject of financial stability and regulatory reforms.
Despite the extensive regulation and supervision of U.S. banking organizations, the U.S. and the world financial systems were shaken by the largest financial crisis since the Great Depression, largely precipitated by events within the U.S. financial system. The new “macroprudential” approach to financial regulations focuses on both the risks arising in financial markets broadly and those risks arising from financial distress at individual financial institutions.
For the first time all banks passed DFAST this year, but this unfortunately told us nothing about their chances of passing last week’s CCAR qualitative assessment.
The DFAST results published March 5, 2015 are the Federal Reserve’s (Fed) first stress test results released in 2015. On March 11th, the Fed released the more important Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR) results which told us whether the banks passed the Fed’s qualitative and quantitative assessments in order to return more capital to shareholders. 
It has been two and a half years since the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) designated select financial market utilities (FMUs) as “systemically important.” These entities’ respective primary supervisory agencies have since increased scrutiny of these organizations’ operations and issued rules to enhance their resilience.
As a result, systemically important FMUs (SIFMUs) have been challenged by a significant increase in regulatory on-site presence, data requests, and overall supervisory expectations. Further, they are now subject to heightened and often entirely new regulatory requirements. Given the breadth and evolving nature of these requirements, regulators have prioritized compliance with requirements deemed most critical to the safety and soundness of financial markets. These include certain areas within corporate governance and risk management such as liquidity risk management, participant default management, and recovery and wind-down planning.
This post highlights what we believe to be the most significant developments during 2014 for financial institutions with respect to U.S. Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering (“BSA/AML”) and U.S. sanctions programs, including sanctions administered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”), and identifies significant trends. The overarching trend that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future is an intense focus on BSA/AML and sanctions compliance by multiple government agencies, combined with increasing regulatory expectations and significant enforcement actions and penalties.
In December 2014, the SEC proposed rules under the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (the “JOBS Act”) that reflect new, higher thresholds for registration under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”). The SEC also proposed rules that would implement higher thresholds for termination of registration and suspension of reporting for banks and bank holding companies and savings and loan holding companies. In addition, the SEC has proposed to revise the definition of “held of record” in Exchange Act Rule 12g5-1 to exclude certain securities held by persons who received them pursuant to employee compensation plans and to establish a non-exclusive safe harbor for determining whether securities are “held of record” for purposes of registration under Exchange Act Section 12(g).
The year 2014 was marked by accelerating mergers and acquisitions activity in the financial institutions space and by several distinct trends. Institutions continued to adapt to the changed regulatory environment, as several important rule proposals and releases brought the ultimate contours of that environment into clearer focus. Profitability pressures continued for traditional businesses. And, as investors continue to seek yield in a low-rate world, shareholder activism notably proliferated. Continued improvement in the economy brought new opportunities into sight and ramped up private equity activity in the financial services sector. Cutting across all of these trends, technological changes, and associated business challenges, continued to reshape firms’ strategic playbooks.
Early indications suggest the M&A activity trend continuing into 2015. In the opening days of the new year, City National agreed to merge with Royal Bank of Canada. The largest bank holding company merger since the financial crisis, at $5.4 billion, the City National deal signals the continuing recovery of the U.S. market from post-crisis distressed deal terms, transaction motivations and negotiating positions. City National is widely considered to be among the strongest franchises in the U.S. It maintained its position of strength and financial performance throughout the financial crisis—as evidenced by the 2.6x multiple of deal price to tangible book value to be paid to City National shareholders. The merger is also a significant vote of confidence by RBC in the outlook for the U.S. banking market and in particular for the type of clientele served by City National. RBC will be reentering retail and commercial banking in the U.S. with 75 branches and $32 billion in assets, and a franchise that is highly complementary to its existing strong U.S. asset management presence.
On December 13, 2014, the US Senate passed an appropriations bill for the President’s signature that included a provision to roll back much of Dodd-Frank’s section 716 (i.e., the Swaps Push-Out). The initial version of the Swaps Push-Out was proposed by Senator Blanche Lincoln (Democrat of Arkansas) in 2010, during her re-election campaign, and would have prohibited bank swap dealers from receiving federal assistance from the FDIC or from the discount window of the Federal Reserve. After intense negotiation in the last days of congressional debate on Dodd-Frank, Lincoln’s version was substantially narrowed to only prohibit banks from dealing in swaps that were viewed by Congress as the most risky.
The Swaps Push-Out that ultimately passed as part of Dodd-Frank prohibited bank swap dealers (with access to FDIC insurance or the discount window) from dealing in certain swaps (or security-based swaps), including most credit default swaps (CDS), equity swaps, and many commodity swaps. Swaps related to rates, currencies, or underlying assets that national banks may hold (e.g., loans) were allowed to remain in the bank, as were swaps used for hedging or similar risk mitigation activities.
A key element of the Basel III framework aims to ensure the maintenance and stability of funding and liquidity profiles of banks’ balance sheets. Two liquidity standards, the “net stable funding ratio” and a “liquidity coverage ratio”, were introduced in the Basel III framework to achieve this aim. Final standards on the net stable funding ratio have recently been released. Despite the implementation date of January 2018, banking institutions are considering the full impact of these measures on all aspects of their businesses now.