On December 10, 2013, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (the “FDIC”) proposed for public comment a notice (the “Notice”) describing its “Single Point of Entry” (“SPOE”) strategy for resolving systemically important financial institutions (“SIFIs”) in default or in danger of default under the orderly liquidation authority granted by Title II of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the “Dodd-Frank Act”).  The Notice follows the FDIC’s endorsement of the SPOE model in its joint paper issued with the Bank of England last year.
Posts Tagged ‘SIFIs’
Today an enormous global civilization rests upon a jury-rigged financial frame rife with moral hazards, perverse incentives, and unintended consequences. This article, SIFIs and States, forthcoming in the Texas International Law Journal, addresses one aspect of that fragile structure. It argues for basic reform in the international management of financial institutions in distress, with a special emphasis on SIFIs (Systemically Important Financial Institutions). The goal is to examine public institutional arrangements for resolution of financial institutions in the midst of a crisis, rather than the substantive rules governing the resolution process. The proposition central to this article is that the resolution of major financial institutions in serious distress will generally require substantial infusions of public money, at least temporarily. The home jurisdiction for a given financial institution must furnish the bulk of the public funds necessary for the successful resolution of its financial distress. The positive effect is that other jurisdictions may be likely to acquiesce in the leadership of the funding jurisdiction in exchange for acceptance of that financial responsibility. On the other hand, acceptance of the funding obligation would have profound consequences for the state as well as the institution, because the default of a SIFI may threaten the financial stability of that state. Until the crisis of 2007-2008, all that was implicit and unexamined in the political process; to a large extent it remains so.
Overview of U.S. Liquidity Coverage Ratio Proposal
- The Federal Reserve, OCC and FDIC have issued a proposal to implement the Basel III liquidity coverage ratio (LCR) in the United States.
- Part of the Basel III liquidity framework, the LCR requires a banking organization to maintain a minimum amount of liquid assets to withstand a 30-day standardized supervisory liquidity stress scenario.
- The U.S. LCR proposal is more stringent than the Basel Committee’s LCR framework in several significant respects.
- The U.S. LCR proposal contains two versions of the LCR:
- A full version for large, internationally active banking organizations.
- A modified, “light” version for other large bank holding companies and savings and loan holding companies (depository institution holding companies).
- The proposed effective date is January 1, 2015, subject to a two-year phase-in period.
- The comment period for the proposal ends on January 31, 2014.
Which Organizations Are Affected?
A critical policy question is the extent to which “systemic” banks provide value from an economic or social perspective. Much research has been mobilized to demonstrate this, as well as to counter these findings to argue that the biggest banks enjoy undue subsidies because they are so systemic as to be protected by taxpayers. Markets may indeed perceive some big banks as too big to fail (TBTF), but perception does not make reality. Thus, this paper assesses how a systemic financial institution can be differentiated from others to inform the debate over policy responses to TBTF and pending regulatory actions and U.S. legislation to govern the largest financial institutions. Quite simply, if there are no reliable, objective systemic criteria, then policy based on size thresholds or other “systemic” indicators will be at best ineffective antidotes to global financial crises even as they do unnecessary damage to banks and, more broadly, to financial-market efficiency and effectiveness.
In this paper, we assess the ability of regulators to define the criteria that characterize systemically-important financial institutions (SIFIs). The definition of systemic is critical since an array of rules predicated on the negative externalities of SIFIs is under active development. Further, allegations that “systemic” firms, most notably very large bank holding companies (BHCs), are TBTF have aroused calls for additional, generally punitive action for designated institutions.
In a June 3, 2013 closed-door meeting, the Financial Stability Oversight Council (“FSOC”) voted to propose the designation of three financial services companies—American International Group (“AIG”), Prudential Financial and GE Capital—as the first systemically significant nonbank financial institutions (“nonbank SIFIs”) under section 113 of the Dodd-Frank Act.
The FSOC decision, announced by the Treasury Secretary, did not identify specific names, but all three companies publicly confirmed their proposed nonbank SIFI status. If these proposed designations become final, these three companies will become the first nonbank SIFIs to be subjected to stringent Federal Reserve Board oversight and supervision, as well as capital and other regulatory requirements, under Title I of the Dodd-Frank Act. In addition, these designations will bring to life the Dodd-Frank Act’s orderly liquidation authority that applies to systemically significant financial firms, in the event that one of these companies may fail or be in danger of failing in the future.
The FSOC’s action to begin the process of designating nonbank SIFIs has been long awaited—some would say long-overdue—and the identities of the three companies that have been proposed for SIFI designation come as no real surprise. Nonetheless, the FSOC’s action marks an important milestone in the implementation of the Dodd- Frank Act’s systemic regulation framework. While the actual significance of these designations likely will emerge more clearly in the coming weeks and months, the FSOC’s action brings into sharper focus the questions and challenges that the designated firms and their regulators will face.
Treasury officials have recently suggested that the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) may soon designate the first round of systemically significant nonbank financial companies (Nonbank SIFIs). In March, Under Secretary for Domestic Finance Miller and Deputy Assistant Secretary for the FSOC Gerety stated that designations could occur “in the next few months.”
Moreover, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (Federal Reserve) recently finalized its rule on determining when a company is “predominantly engaged in financial activities,” thus making the company potentially subject to FSOC designation. The final rule is notable for stating that an investment firm that does not comply with the Merchant Banking Rule’s investment holding periods and routine management and operation limitations may nonetheless be determined, on a case- by-case basis, to be engaging in “financial activities.” In addition, the final rule rejected the argument that mutual funds — including money market mutual funds — are “not engaged in a financial activity” and therefore not capable of designation.
On March 26, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (“Basel Committee”) published a Consultative Document in which it proposes a revised supervisory framework for measuring and controlling large counterparty exposures (“Proposal,” or “Exposure Framework”) of systemically important financial institutions (“SIFIs”). Comments on the Proposal are due by June 28, 2013.
On December 10, 2012, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”) and the Bank of England released a white paper, Resolving Globally Active, Systemically Important, Financial Institutions,  describing how each would resolve a materially distressed or failing financial institution that is globally active and systemically important (“G-SIFI”) in order to maintain the G-SIFI’s ongoing and viable operations, and contain any threats to financial stability. The paper reflects the work of U.S. and UK authorities  in developing resolution strategies for the failure of G-SIFIs in accordance with standards developed by the Financial Stability Board,  but does not go into detail on the strategic options that may be available.
The white paper warrants the close attention of G-SIFIs and their stakeholders, particularly their unsecured debtholders. The paper memorializes the consensus view of the FDIC and the Bank of England that a top-down or single-point-of-entry approach is the preferred (although not the sole) method of resolving a G-SIFI.  This approach could transform certain unsecured debt into equity or convertible debt and should cause G-SIFIs to review their organizational structure. Also of interest are the FDIC’s and Bank of England’s perspectives on the critical powers and preconditions for a successful resolution and what legislative or regulatory changes may be necessary.
Implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act: Measures to Address Systemic Risk
The economic dislocations we have experienced in recent years, which have far exceeded those associated with any recession since the 1930s, were the direct result of the financial crisis of 2007-08. The reforms enacted under the Dodd-Frank Act were aimed at addressing the root causes of the crisis. Foremost among these reforms were measures to curb excessive risk-taking at large, complex banks and non-bank financial companies, where the crisis began. Title I of the Dodd-Frank Act includes new provisions that enhance prudential supervision and capital requirements for systemically-important financial institutions (SIFIs), while Title II authorizes a new orderly liquidation authority that significantly enhances the ability to resolve a failed SIFI without contributing to additional financial market distress.
SIFI Resolution Authorities
The most important new FDIC authorities under the Dodd-Frank Act are those that provide for enhanced resolution planning and, if needed, the orderly resolution of SIFIs. Prior to the recent crisis, the FDIC’s receivership authorities were limited to federally insured banks and thrift institutions. There was no authority to place the holding company or affiliates of an insured institution or any other non-bank financial company into an FDIC receivership to avoid systemic consequences. The lack of this authority severely constrained the ability of the government to resolve a SIFI and contributed to the excessive risk taking that led to the crisis.
On April 3, 2012 the Financial Stability Oversight Council issued its final rule and interpretive guidance governing its process for designating a nonbank financial company as a systemically important financial institution under the Dodd-Frank Act. The adoption of the Final Rule marks the completion of the highly anticipated standards for designating SIFIs, a process that first began in October 2010. While there have been changes made to the process, much remains to be understood how the FSOC will use its authority to determine whether a nonbank financial company should be supervised and subject to prudential standards. It is widely anticipated that designations of some SIFIs will be made before year-end, making us wonder whether the designation process has been underway without final rules being in place.
Section 113 of the Dodd-Frank Act  authorizes the Financial Stability Oversight Council (“FSOC”) to designate a nonbank financial company to be supervised by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (the “Federal Reserve”) and be subject to prudential standards.  The FSOC will make a designation after determining that material financial distress at the company or the nature, scope, size, scale, concentration, interconnectedness, or mix of the activities of the company could pose a threat to the financial stability of the United States.