Fed’s Regulatory Chief Submits Letter of Resignation; Will Step Down in April

On February 10, the Fed announced that Daniel K. Tarullo submitted his resignation as a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, effective on or around April 5. Mr. Tarullo—who has been a member of the Board since January 28, 2009—was appointed to the Board by President Obama for an unexpired term ending January 31, 2022. During his time on the Board, he served as Chairman of the Board’s Committee on Supervision and Regulation. He was also Chairman of the Financial Stability Board’s Standing Committee on Supervisory and Regulatory Cooperation.

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President of Philadelphia Fed Makes an Argument for FinTech Regulation

In prepared remarks at the “Global Interdependence Center’s Payment Systems in the Internet Age” Conference, Philadelphia Fed President Patrick T. Harker said that regulating the evolving FinTech industry benefits not only consumers, but also the innovators. While Harker did not speculate as to whether the Fed will become involved in FinTech regulation, he stated that it is in the best interest of FinTech companies “to have an established framework in which to operate.” He cautioned, however, that “all financial systems are a matter of trust” and thus FinTech firms will “need that trust the same as any other bank or financial institution.” Harker noted that regulations will help determine which companies can survive the “down side” of a credit cycle, but implementing regulations after a “crisis. . . could mean tighter strictures and less room for innovation.”

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OCC, FDIC, and Fed Release Stress Test Scenarios for 2017

On February 3, the Fed announced the release of the “Supervisory Scenarios” to be used by banks and supervisors for the 2017 Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR) and Dodd-Frank Act stress test exercises and also issued instructions to firms participating in CCAR. The Fed also published three letters that provide additional information on its stress-testing program. The three letters describe: (i) the Horizontal Capital Review for large, noncomplex companies; (ii) the CCAR qualitative assessment for U.S. intermediate holding companies of foreign banks, which are submitting capital plans for the first time; and (iii) improvements to how the Fed will estimate post-stress capital ratios.

On February 3, the OCC similarly released economic and financial market scenarios for 2017 that are to be used by national banks and federal savings associations (with total consolidated assets of more than $10 billion) in their annual Dodd-Frank Act-mandated stress test. On February 6, the FDIC released its stress test scenarios, working in consultation with the Fed and OCC.

The three sets of supervisory scenarios provide each agency with forward-looking information for use in bank supervision and will assist the agencies in assessing the covered institutions’ risk profile and capital adequacy.

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Fed Survey: CRE Tightening Trend Continues

On February 6, the Fed released its January 2017 senior loan officer survey, addressing changes in the standards and terms on, and demand for, bank loans to businesses and households over the past three months. The January survey results indicated that over the fourth quarter of 2016, on balance, lenders left their standards on commercial and industrial (“C&I”) loans unchanged, while tightening credit for commercial real estate (“CRE”) loans. Banks reported that they expect to ease standards on C&I loans and for the asset quality of such loans to improve somewhat this year. In contrast, banks expect to tighten standards on CRE loans, while they expect the asset quality of most CRE loan categories to remain unchanged. As to loans to households, banks reported that demand for most types of home-purchase loans weakened over the fourth quarter. On balance, banks reported that they expect to ease standards and to see asset quality improve somewhat for most residential home-purchase loans in 2017.

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Fed Finalizes Rule Simplifying Stress Testing Process for Regional Banks

On January 30, the Fed issued a finalized version of its rule aimed at simplifying the Fed’s Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR or “stress test”) by exempting all but the largest financial institutions from the qualitative assessment portion of the Fed’s stress test. The changes will apply to the 2017 CCAR cycle, which began on January 1, 2017.

Specifically, the new rule provides that “large and noncomplex firms”—those with total consolidated assets of at least $50 billion but less than $250 billion, and nonbank assets of less than $75 billion (and that are not U.S. global-systemically important banks)—will no longer be subject to the provisions allowing the Fed to object to a bank’s capital adequacy plan based on an evaluation of hypothetical scenarios of severe economic and financial market stress, known as a “qualitative assessment.” Previously, the Board could object to the annual capital plan of any bank subject to stress testing, based on the quantitative or qualitative findings of the exercise. However, the rule also decreases the amount of additional capital exempted banks can distribute to shareholders in connection with a capital plan without seeking prior approval from the Fed, now 0.25 percent of tier 1 capital down from 1 percent.

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