I reproduce in extenso RGE Monitor's Newsletter regarding new proposed financial sector's regulation in the US and Europe:
"As decided at the latest G20 meeting, authorities around the world are devising micro- and macro-prudential reforms in order to strengthen the resilience not only of single financial institutions but of the entire financial system by extending oversight to all important financial institutions, products, and activities.
The United States
In the U.S., the Obama administration introduced its widely anticipated regulatory reform proposal on June 17. Its five main components include:
1. The establishment of the Fed as systemic risk regulator and supervisor of “too-big-to-fail” institutions in return for Treasury permission requirement for extraordinary liquidity programs. The plan proposes creation of a “Council of Regulators” (formerly the President’s Working Group) chaired by Treasury but with advisory powers only;
2. The creation for the first time of a regulatory regime for all financial derivatives, as well as a requirement that the originator, sponsor or broker of a securitized vehicle retain “skin in the game” – i.e., a financial interest of at least 5% in its performance;
3. The creation of a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency with rules against predatory lending and transparency standards at the retail level;
4. A new resolution mechanism that allows for the orderly divestiture of any non-bank financial holding company whose failure might threaten the stability of the financial system, including investment banks, large hedge funds and major insurers such as AIG;
5. Adopting a leadership role in the effort to improve and coordinate global regulation and supervision.
The main points of contention in Congress are likely to include the scope of the new regulatory powers conveyed to the Federal Reserve in view of the arguably minimal use it made of its already existing regulatory powers in the run-up to the crisis. Equally controversial are the need and the powers of the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency. Furthermore, some policymakers and market participants are equally worried about the potentially stifling effect of too much regulation on financial innovation.
The European Union and Switzerland
Two days after the Obama plan’s introduction, on June 19, EU leaders reached agreement on a new framework for coordinated (rather than unified at EU-level) macro- and micro-prudential supervision along the lines proposed by Jacques de Larosiere and endorsed by the European Commission on June 9. Regarding the macro-prudential authority, the new European Systematic Risk Council (ESRC) will comprise EU central bank governors and will most likely be chaired by the ECB president. The Council will issue financial stability risk warnings and macro-prudential recommendations for action to supervisors and monitor their implementation. In contrast to the U.S. Federal Reserve, however, EU central bankers will not oversee and regulate systemic cross-border institutions directly. ECB vice president Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, in a June 19 speech, deplored this discrepancy.
The EU agreement also establishes a new micro-prudential authority at EU-level. In particular, the European System of Financial Supervisors, comprising three new European Supervisory Authorities, will help ensure consistency of national supervision and strengthen oversight of cross border entities. This will be accomplished by setting up supervisory colleges and establishing “a European single rule book applicable to all financial institutions in the Single Market.”
Importantly, the new EU-level supervisory authority will have binding decision powers in the case of disagreement between the home and host state supervisors, including within colleges of supervisors. EurActiv cites the following example: “If Italian and Polish supervisory authorities disagree regarding recapitalization of an Italian bank operating in Poland, for example, it would be the new EU-level authority that would settle the issue with binding decisions.” However, EU leaders are clear in their agreement that “decisions taken by the European Supervisory Authorities should not impinge in any way on the fiscal responsibilities of Member States.” This precludes any ex ante burden-sharing provision, a very controversial issue. As EurActiv explains: “Should a major financial institution fail, there will be no European competence to establish which countries will have to foot the bill and by what means. National interests are likely to prevail again on this issue.”
Up until now, then, an EU-wide resolution regime for cross-border banks remains unaddressed. While this is welcome news for Britain, which worked hard to confine any EU interference to a minimum, smaller EU countries as well as non-EU countries with large banking sectors have a problem.
Not by coincidence, Philipp Hildebrand, vice president of the Swiss National Bank, noted on a June 18 speech: "The lack of any clearly defined and internationally coordinated wind-down procedure contributes to a de facto obligation on the part of the state to provide assistance to these institutions." Small countries, in particular, will need to develop wind-down rules for crisis situations. One possible consideration, according to Hildebrand is to "split off those units of a bank that are important for the functioning of the economy and wind down the rest."
‘The rest,’ of course, might include foreign EU operations in need of domestic backing. In terms of pro-active regulatory interventions, the Swiss have been at the forefront with an overall leverage cap for their large institutions, an innovative ring-fencing framework for bad assets at UBS, and a risk-adjusted remuneration scheme at Credit Suisse (i.e., to pay top bankers based on the performance of the toxic waste they originated or acquired on behalf of the bank).
The UK established new resolution powers for national institutions in the Banking Act 2009 in the aftermath of Northern Rock. Large and complex financial institutions, however, still await a comprehensive solution, a fact noted in Mervyn King’s June 17 speech. He noted that “one important practical step would be to require any regulated bank itself to produce a plan for an orderly wind down of its activities,” i.e. akin to making a will. That kind of information would also be a valuable input for the new EU cross-border regulators.
Alternative Investment and Derivatives Regulation
In the U.S., the President’s plan requires all advisers to hedge funds and other private pools of capital, including private equity funds and venture capital funds whose assets under management exceed some modest threshold, to register with the SEC under the Investment Advisers Act and provide sufficient information for effective systemic risk supervision. Similarly, under the EU Commission draft regulation, managers of hedge funds and similar ‘alternative investment funds’ that handle at least €500m (€100m for those using borrowed money) would have to be registered in trade repositories and provide information about leverage. For now, the draft law applies only to managers, rather than funds, because many funds are based offshore. After three years, the rules will get tougher for funds based outside the EU. Although the EU plan was under heavy attack by the industry, the latest U.S. backing should put any hope of a reversal to self-regulation to rest.
New rules in major financial centers also require all financial derivatives to be brought under the regulatory umbrella. As part of the U.S. plan, standardized credit default swaps (CDS) and other over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives will be required to clear through a central counterparty and trade on exchanges and other transparent trading venues. More customized products will be required to register with a central registry that makes aggregate data available to the public and detailed positions for regulators. In the European framework, the UK secured that the new EU supervision will not cover clearing houses for derivatives – an important objective for the City of London who is global leader in terms of trading volumes of derivatives."
I will have only one comment (besides the fact that I do believe that State regulation will sow the seeds of further and even more damaging crises - just look at the increasing indebtedness of States in the West for the past 40 years): the emerging markets' banking system is in much better shape and does not need to increase regulation. Interesting...
RGE Monitor's Newsletter: June 24, 2009