On September 24, the Federal Reserve Board issued two interim final rules that clarify how companies should incorporate the Basel III regulatory capital reforms into their capital and business projections during the next cycle of capital plan submissions and stress tests. The first interim final rule clarifies that in the next capital planning and stress testing cycle, bank holding companies with $50 billion or more in total consolidated assets must incorporate the revised capital framework into their capital planning projections and into the stress tests using the transition paths established in the Basel III final rule. This rule also clarifies that for the upcoming cycle, capital adequacy at these companies will continue to be assessed against a minimum 5% tier 1 common ratio calculated in the same manner as under previous stress tests and capital plan submissions. For most banking organizations with between $10 billion and $50 billion in total consolidated assets, the second interim final rule provides a one-year transition period. During their first stress test cycle (scheduled to begin October 1), these companies will be required to calculate their projections using the current regulatory capital rules in order to allow time to adjust their internal systems to the revised capital framework. Both rules clarify that covered companies will not be required to use the advanced approaches in the Basel III capital rules to calculate their projected risk-weighted assets in a given capital planning and stress testing cycle unless the companies have been notified by September 30 of that year.
On November 12, the FDIC released the economic scenarios that will be used by certain financial institutions with total consolidated assets of more than $10 billion for stress tests required under the Dodd-Frank Act. Each scenario includes key variables that reflect economic activity, including unemployment, exchange rates, prices, income, interest rates, and other salient aspects of the economy and financial markets. The baseline scenario represents expectations of private sector economic forecasters; the adverse and severely adverse are hypothetical scenarios designed to assess the strength and resilience of financial institutions and their ability to continue to meet the credit needs of households and businesses under stressed economic conditions. The FDIC release follows the recent release of stress test scenarios by the Federal Reserve Board and the OCC. The Federal Reserve Board also recently issued a final policy statement that describes the process by which it will develop future stress test scenarios.
On August 19, the Federal Reserve Board released a paper that details its expectations for internal capital planning at large bank holding companies and describes the range of practices the Board has observed during the stress test exercises conducted to date. The Federal Reserve conducts the stress tests annually to assess companies’ capital planning processes and ensure that the processes account for unique risks and result in sufficient capital to enable the institutions to continue lending to households and businesses during times of economic and financial stress. The Board stated that the paper is intended to promote better capital planning at bank holding companies generally, and to provide greater clarity on the standards against which those practices are evaluated as part of the stress test exercise. The Board found that firms needed to improve a number of aspects of their capital planning processes, including their accounting for risks most relevant to the specific business activities, their methods of projecting the effect of certain stresses on their capital needs, and their governance of the capital planning processes, and emphasized that bank holding companies, when considering their capital needs, should focus on the specific risks they could face under potentially stressful conditions.
On August 20, the Federal Reserve Board, the OCC, and the FDIC proposed a rule to strengthen the leverage ratio standards for the largest U.S. banking organizations. The proposed rule is the same as that approved last month by the FDIC and the OCC. The rule would require bank holding companies with more than $700 billion in consolidated total assets or $10 trillion in assets under custody to maintain a tier 1 capital leverage buffer of at least 2% above the minimum supplementary leverage ratio requirement of 3%, for a total of 5%. Failure to exceed the 5% ratio would subject covered companies to restrictions on discretionary bonus payments and capital distributions. The proposed rule also would require insured depository institutions of covered holding companies to meet a 6% supplementary leverage ratio to be considered “well capitalized” for prompt corrective action purposes. The proposal suggests a phase-in period for the rule with an effective date of January 1, 2018. Comments on the proposal are due by October 21, 2013.
On July 30, the OCC, the FDIC, and the Federal Reserve Board proposed guidance for stress tests conducted by institutions with more than $10 billion but less than $50 billion in total consolidated assets. Under Dodd-Frank Act mandated regulations adopted by the regulators last October, such firms are required to conduct annual company-run stress tests starting in October 2013. The guidance discusses supervisory expectations for stress test practices, provides examples of practices that would be consistent with those expectations, and offers additional details about stress test methodologies. It also underscores the importance of stress testing as an ongoing risk management practice that supports a company’s forward-looking assessment of its risks and better equips the company to address a range of macroeconomic and financial outcomes. Comments on the proposed guidance are due by September 25, 2013.
On July 11, the Federal Reserve Board announced that Governor Elizabeth Duke submitted her resignation effective August 31, 2013. She was appointed to the Board in August 2008 to fill a term that expired January 31, 2012. During her time on the Federal Reserve Board, Ms. Duke, a former community banker, focused on housing issues and financial regulation, including with regard to the impact of such regulation on community banks. For example, last year she cautioned regulators about the potential impact of the various mortgage and capital rules on small institutions. Ms. Duke, who also previously led the American Bankers Association, did not indicate her future plans.
On July 9, the FDIC and the OCC approved a final rule to implement the risk-based and leverage capital requirements in the Basel III framework and relevant provisions mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act. The same rule was approved on July 2 by the Federal Reserve Board. The final rule (i) increases the minimum common equity tier 1 capital requirement from 2% to 4.5% of risk-weighted assets; (ii) increases the minimum tier 1 capital requirement from 4% to 6% of risk-weighted assets; and (iii) adds a new capital conservation buffer of 2.5% of risk-weighted assets. The rule also establishes a minimum leverage ratio of 4% for all banking organizations. In response to concerns raised by smaller and community banking organizations, the regulators did not finalize more onerous capital requirements that would have substantially increased the risk-weightings for residential mortgages, as explained in more detail in our recent post. The final rule does not change the more stringent limits on the inclusion of mortgage servicing assets and deferred tax assets in regulatory capital calculations, but does extend the phase-in period for community banks. Internationally active banks must begin to implement the new capital rules in January 2014, while all other banking organizations will have until January 2015 to begin to phase in the new capital requirements. Also on July 9, the FDIC and the OCC approved a proposed rule that would require bank holding companies with more than $700 billion in consolidated total assets or $10 trillion in assets under custody to maintain a tier 1 capital leverage buffer of at least 2% above the minimum supplementary leverage ratio requirement of 3%, for a total of 5%. Failure to exceed the 5% ratio would subject covered companies to restrictions on discretionary bonus payments and capital distributions. The proposed rule also would require insured depository institutions of covered holding companies to meet a 6% supplementary leverage ratio to be considered “well capitalized” for prompt corrective action purposes. The proposal suggests a phase-in period for the rule with an effective date of January 1, 2018. Comments on the proposal are due 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register.
On June 11, the OCC revised its policy statement on minority institutions to make it easier for those institutions to raise capital. The OCC acknowledged that minority institutions may be unable to accept equity investment capital from some investors because their status as a minority institution would be jeopardized if the share of minority ownership fell below 50 percent. In response, the revised statement adds discretionary language that allows the agency to continue to treat an existing minority institution as such even if it no longer meets the 51 percent ownership criteria provided that the institution (i) primarily serves the credit and economic needs of the community in which it is chartered and (ii) that community is predominantly minority.
On March 15, the OCC requested comment on its new regulatory reporting requirement for national banks and federal savings associations, which the OCC adopted in an October 2012 final rule. The notice and request for information describes the proposed scope of the reporting and the proposed reporting requirements for covered institutions with consolidated assets between $10 and $50 billion. The OCC also released copies of the reporting templates and instructions referenced in the notice. Comments on the notice are due by May 10, 2013.
On March 7, the Federal Reserve Board (FRB) released summary results of stress tests conducted for the 18 largest banks. This is the third round of stress tests conducted by the FRB, but the first conducted under new Dodd-Frank Act stress test requirements. According to the FRB, under the severe, nine-quarter hypothetical scenario, projected losses at the 18 bank holding companies would total $462 billion, and the aggregate tier 1 common capital ratio would fall from an actual 11.1 percent in the third quarter of 2012 to 7.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014. The FRB assures that despite the large hypothetical declines, the aggregate post-stress capital ratio exceeds the actual aggregate tier 1 common ratio of approximately 5.6 percent prior to the government stress tests conducted in the midst of the financial crisis.
On February 28, the European Parliament announced that negotiators from the Parliament and the European Council agreed to alter bank capital rules and limit executive pay. The capital requirements, developed to implement aspects of Basel III, would raise to eight percent the minimum thresholds of high quality capital that banks must retain. The announcement does not specify what types of capital would satisfy the requirement, but does indicate that good quality capital would be mostly Tier 1 capital. With regard to executive pay, the base salary-to-bonus ratio would be 1:1, but the ratio could increase to a maximum of 1:2 with the approval of at least 65 percent of shareholders owning half the shares represented, or of 75 percent of votes if there is no quorum. Further, if a bonus is increased above 1:1, then a quarter of the whole bonus would be deferred for at least five years. Finally, the legislation would require banks to disclose to the European Commission certain information that subsequently would be made public, including profits, taxes paid, and subsidies received country by country. The European Parliament is expected to vote on the legislation in mid-April, and each member state also must approve the legislation. Once approved, member states must implement the rules through their national laws by January 2014.
On February 19, House Financial Services Committee members Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) sent a letter to the Federal Reserve Board, the OCC, and the FDIC regarding the lawmakers’ concerns about the implementation of Basel III. Citing potential compliance costs and the potential derivative impact on consumers, Representatives Capito and Maloney ask that the agencies carefully tailor the Basel III capital requirements to ensure they are appropriate for community banks. The House and Senate have in recent months placed significant focus on the Basel III rulemakings, with both houses recently holding hearings on the issue and lawmakers previously sending letters to the regulators.
On November 29, two Subcommittees of the House Financial Services Committee held a joint hearing regarding the federal banking agency proposals to implement the Basel III international regulatory capital accords. As with a Senate hearing on the same topic last week, committee members focused bipartisan attention on the proposals’ potential impact on community banks and insurance companies that are holders of depository institutions. The committee also explored the interplay between the Basel III proposals and the pending rules to set forth the “qualified mortgage” standard and the “qualified residential mortgage” standard. The regulators promised lawmakers that they would carefully consider the concerns of community bankers. The regulators did not provide a timeline for their final rulemaking.
On November 15, the Federal Reserve Board, the OCC, and the FDIC released the macroeconomic and financial market scenarios to be used in annual stress tests conducted by covered institutions pursuant to rules the regulators finalized last month. The economic scenarios are the same for each regulator and their covered institutions and include baseline, adverse, and severely adverse scenarios with variables that reflect, among other things, economic activity, unemployment, exchange rates, prices, incomes, and interest rates. The baseline scenario represents expectations of private-sector forecasters, while the adverse and severely adverse scenarios present hypothetical conditions designed to assess the strength and resilience of financial institutions, as well as their ability to continue to meet the credit needs of households and businesses in stressful economic and financial environments. The Federal Reserve Board also published a proposed policy statement and the OCC issued interim guidance to describe how those agencies will develop and distribute stress test scenarios in future years. Comments are due on the Federal Reserve Board policy statement by February 15, 2013, and on the OCC interim guidance within 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. Finally, last week, the Federal Reserve Board issued instructions and guidelines for covered institutions, including timelines for submissions. In a shift from prior years, the Federal Reserve Board will provide covered firms an opportunity to adjust planned capital distributions based on the stress test results before the Federal Reserve Board makes a final decision on their capital adequacy.
On November 14, the Senate Banking Committee held a hearing regarding rules proposed by federal banking regulators to implement the Basel III international regulatory capital accords. The hearing featured testimony from representatives of the Federal Reserve Board, the FDIC, and the OCC, the federal regulators responsible for the proposed rules. Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL) asked regulators to explain the Basel III process generally, and the potential impact of implementation on community banks specifically. The committee also explored (i) the impact of proposed risk weights, particularly with regard to small banks’ willingness to offer mortgages, (ii) the treatment of accumulated other comprehensive income, (iii) the treatment of insurance businesses, (iv) sovereign debt ratings, and (v) the rulemaking process. The witnesses did not provide a timeline for the final rule or discuss any specific changes to the proposed rules to accommodate small banks’ concerns, but did promise a long implementation timeframe. The witnesses generally acknowledged those concerns and assured that they are considering them as regulators prepare the final rules.