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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

Agencies propose new capital requirements for biggest banks

Bank Regulatory Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Issues Federal Reserve FDIC OCC Capital Requirements Compliance Basel Committee

On July 27, the FDIC’s Board of Directors unveiled proposed interagency amendments to the regulatory capital requirements for the largest and most complex banks in the United States. The notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), issued jointly by the FDIC, OCC, and the Federal Reserve Board (and passed by an FDIC Board vote of 3-2 and a Fed vote of 4-2), would revise capital requirements for large banking organizations with at least $100 billion in assets, as well as certain banking organizations with significant trading activity. (See also FDIC fact sheet here.) The proposed changes would implement the final components of the Basel III agreement—recent changes made to international capital standards issued by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision—as well as modifications made in response to recent bank failures in March, the agencies said.

Specifically, the NPRM would implement standardized approaches for market risk and credit valuation adjustment risk by amending the way banks calculate their risk-weighted assets. According to FDIC FIL-38-2023, the new “expanded risk-based approach” would incorporate a standardized approach for credit risk and operational risk, a revised internal models-based approach, a new standardized measure for market risk, and a new revised approach for credit valuation adjustment. Banks subject to Category III and IV standards would also be required “to calculate their regulatory capital in the same manner as banking organizations subject to Category I and II standards, including the treatment of accumulated other comprehensive income, capital deductions, and rules for minority interest.” Additionally, the supplementary leverage ratio and the countercyclical capital buffer would be applied to banks subject to Category IV standards.

The agencies said the proposed modifications are intended to:

  • Better reflect banks’ underlying risks;
  • Increase transparency and consistency by revising the capital framework in four main areas: credit, market, operational, and credit valuation adjustment risk;
  • Strengthen the banking system, by applying consistent capital requirements across large banks by requiring institutions to (i) include unrealized gains and losses from certain securities in capital ratios; (ii) comply with the supplementary leverage ratio requirement; and (iii) comply with the countercyclical capital buffer, if activated.

The agencies predict that these changes will “result in an aggregate 16 percent increase in common equity tier 1 capital requirements for affected bank holding companies, with the increase principally affecting the largest and most complex banks.” The impact would vary by bank based on activities and risk profiles, the agencies stated, noting that most banks currently have enough capital to meet the proposed requirements. The NPRM would not amend capital requirements for smaller, less complex banks or for community banks. The agencies propose a three-year phased-in transition process beginning July 1, 2025, to provide banks sufficient time to accommodate the changes and minimize potentially adverse impacts. The changes would be fully phased in on July 1, 2028.

Separately, the Fed also issued an NPRM on a proposal that would modify certain provisions relating to the calculation of the capital surcharge for the largest and most complex banks in order to “better align the surcharge to each bank’s systemic risk profile. . .by measuring a bank’s systemic importance averaged over the entire year, instead of only at the year-end value.”

Comments on both NPRMs are due November 30.

FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg stressed that “[e]nhanced resilience of the banking sector supports more stable lending through the economic cycle and diminishes the likelihood of financial crises and their associated costs.” Also voting in favor of the NPRM was CFPB Chairman and FDIC Board Member Rohit Chopra who expressed interest in feedback from the public on ways to simplify the methodologies used to calculate the requirements. Acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael also voted in favor and encouraged commenters “to include assumptions about capital distributions and competition from banks and other financial institutions in their analyses of the impacts of the proposal on lending and economic growth.”

Voting against the new standards, FDIC Vice Chairman Travis Hill argued that while he supports strong capital requirements, he has several “concerns with the impact of excessive gold plating of international standards.” He stressed that the “proposal rejects the notion of capital neutrality and takes a starkly different path, ‘gold plating’ the new Basel standard in a number of ways and dramatically increasing capital requirements for banks with certain business models.”