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U.S. Plans Threaten To Undermine Global Bank Reforms

LONDON/HONG KONG - U.S. plans to delay globally-agreed reforms to make banks safer after the financial crisis will throw a system of international regulatory cooperation into confusion, European Union and Asian regulatory sources said on Tuesday.

But the rollback will be welcomed by global banks as it will allow them to cut back on how much expensive capital they must hold to support their business, the sources said.

Since the financial crisis, watchdogs around the world have been working via the G20 group of leading economies to increase cooperation between regulators following the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.

But the U.S. Treasury unveiled plans on Monday to upend the country's financial regulatory framework in a 150-page report that suggested more than 100 changes.

"Trump's proposals are going in the wrong direction," Jakob von Weizsaecker, a German Social Democrat in the European Parliament's economic and monetary affairs committee, told Reuters. "In Europe, we must be careful not to forget the lessons of the financial crisis. It would be a huge mistake for us to follow the U.S. lead on this."

The U.S. Treasury has called for a delay implementing a globally agreed rule on bank liquidity which requires banks to cover long term funding needs from January 2018.

The U.S. Treasury also wants to delay a fundamental review of banks' trading books, which was also agreed globally through the Basel Committee of international regulators.

This trading book review represented a major overhaul of how banks set aside capital to cover risks from stocks, bonds and other instruments kept in their trading businesses.

The U.S. Treasury said these two rules would have added new capital and liquidity requirements to existing rules banks have to follow.

The European Union has already proposed a draft law to implement these pieces of regulation.

"This raises some question marks. It's a bit worrying," an EU source said on condition of anonymity as the bloc has not reached a formal position on the U.S. Treasury's announcement.

The Basel Committee could not be reached immediately for comment.


Asia-based regulatory experts said the U.S. Treasury's position would lead some watchdogs in their region to review their implementation timelines. They are already unhappy about having the West's post-crisis reform agenda imposed on them.

"This is going to create level-playing field problems, and concerns for global banks when dealing with fragmented regulatory regimes in the region," Kevin Dixon, global APAC lead, Center for Regulatory Strategy at Deloitte in Sydney, said.

Even so, any rollback on the fundamental review of banks' trading books by Asian regulators would generally be a boon for global banks operating in the region, Keith Pogson, senior partner, Asia Pacific financial services at EY in Hong Kong, said.

The U.S. Treasury will also review a mechanism for winding down failed banks.

"Depending on how the review is implemented, it can create quite a lot of trouble for cooperation between supervisors," the EU source said. "We are looking at this with quite a bit of potential concern. It could jeopardize the whole international cooperation on resolution of banks."


Many of the other reforms proposed by the U.S. Treasury are domestic, such as scaling back on "gold plating" of globally agreed rules.

The U.S. Treasury review also suggested the country's so-called "Volcker Rule" needed amending to avoid damaging market liquidity. The Volcker Rule restricts banks' ability to make bets in financial markets with their own money.

An EU version of the Volcker Rule is currently before the European Parliament.

The U.S. Treasury also proposed easing capital requirements on U.S. branches of foreign banks which hold $4.5 trillion in assets.

At present, the Federal Reserve requires them to ring-fence capital on U.S. soil inside an "intermediate holding company", but the U.S. Treasury wants changes to encourage foreign banks to increase investment in U.S. markets and provide credit to the economy.

The EU has proposed similar requirements for foreign branches in the bloc, and the U.S. move could prompt a rethink of those plans in Europe.

Additional reporting by John O'Donnell in Frankfurt.


Comments welcome.


Posted on June 16, 2017

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