Recently, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on the effectiveness of the U.S. financial system’s existing regulatory structure. In examining the financial regulatory system, the GAO conducted a performance audit from April 2014 to February 2016, dividing the regulatory system into the following sectors based on the various agencies’ missions: (i) safety and soundness oversight of depository institutions; (ii) consumer protection oversight; (iii) securities and derivatives markets oversight; (iv) insurance oversight; and (v) systemic risk oversight. The GAO found that “[f]ragmentation and overlap have created inefficiencies in regulatory processes, inconsistencies in how regulators oversee similar types of institutions, and differences in the levels of protection afforded to consumers.” Based on its audit, the GAO concluded that the regulatory structure as it stands does not always guarantee (i) efficient and effective oversight; (ii) consistent financial oversight; and (iii) consistent consumer protections. The report further identified problems with the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) and the Office of Financial Research (OFR), which are regulatory groups created out of the Dodd-Frank Act to address gaps in systemic risk oversight. Specific problems highlighted in the GAO’s findings include: (i) potential missed opportunities and duplicative analyses as a result of the Federal Reserve’s and the OFR’s similar systemic risk monitoring goals but lack of key collaboration; (ii) a lack of reliance by FSOC on the Federal Reserve’s and the OFR’s systemic risk monitoring efforts; and (iii) limitations on FSOC’s authority to address broader systemic risks that are not specific to a particular entity. The GAO emphasized that, “[w]ithout congressional action it is unlikely that remaining fragmentation and overlap in the U.S. financial regulatory system can be reduced or that more effective and efficient oversight of financial institutions can be achieved.”
On June 29, the Financial Stability Oversight Counsel (FSOC) announced that it rescinded its July 2013 “systemically important” designation of a Connecticut-based financial company. FSOC’s July 2013 designation subjected the company to supervision by the Federal Reserve and enhanced prudential standards. According to FSOC, the company posed a threat to U.S. financial stability due to its standing as one of the largest – ranked by assets – financial services companies in the U.S. At the time of its designation, the company also acted as a significant source of credit to the U.S. economy by providing financing to more than 243,000 commercial customers, 201,000 small businesses through retail programs, and 57 million consumers in the U.S. On June 28, FSOC unanimously voted to rescind its designation, stating that the company had “fundamentally changed its business” by, among other things: (i) decreasing its total assets by more than 50 percent; (ii) moving away from short-term funding; (iii) reducing connections with large financial institutions; (iv) no longer owning any U.S. depository institutions; and (v) no longer providing financing to U.S. consumers or small businesses in the U.S. FSOC also noted that, “[t]hrough a series of divestitures, a transformation of its funding model, and a corporate reorganization, the company has become a much less significant participant in financial markets and the economy.” Treasury Secretary Lew commented that the FSOC’s decision demonstrates a two-way designation process: “The Council follows the facts: When it identifies a company that could threaten financial stability, it acts; when those risks change, the Council also acts.”
On November 10, the Financial Stability Board issued policy proposals in response to G20 Leaders’ request at the 2013 St. Petersburg Summit to develop proposals by the end of 2014. The proposals consist of “a set of principles and a detailed term sheet on the adequacy of loss-absorbing and recapitalization capacity of global systemically important banks (G-SIBs).” The proposals will establish a new minimum standard for total loss-absorbing capacity (TLAC). The new TLAC standard should (i) ensure home and host authorities that G-SIBs have adequate capacity to absorb losses; (ii) allow resolution authorities “to implement a resolution strategy that minimi[zes] any impact on financial stability and ensures the continuity of critical economic functions;” and (iii) help achieve an equal playing field internationally. Comments and responses to the proposals are due by February 2, 2015.
On November 6, the Financial Stability Board published its annual update of global systemically important banks (G-SIBs). Included in its annual update is the addition of one international bank bringing the total number of institutions on the list to 30. Eight U.S. G-SIBs remain on the list. Coinciding with the updated list, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision also published updated information regarding denominators and capital thresholds used to calculate bank scores and allocate capital requirements of G-SIBs.
On October 11, the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, Inc. (ISDA) announced that 18 major global banks (G-18) agreed to sign the Resolution Stay Protocol, which was designed to support cross-border resolution and reduce systematic risk and is a significant step for banks that are considered “too-big-to-fail.” Effective January 2015, the Protocol will allow participating counterparties to “opt into certain overseas resolution regimes via a change to their derivatives contracts.” The Protocol will be applicable to new and existing trades and will likely extend to firms beyond G-18 banks in 2015.