On Tuesday, the U.S. will again go its own way, departing from the global framework by adding to the G-SIB capital surcharge a unique one for liquidity risk. In the Basel Committee’s peer review today of the U.S. and EU compliance, this was dubbed “super-equivalent” – a wondrous Basel word that means something like, “It’s the same as us, except different in a good way.” The EU didn’t get this moniker – Basel found it materially non-compliant – a term we understand. In response, the European Commission fired a fusillade – telling Basel to butt out (our English, not theirs) because they make the rules in Europe, not a bunch of bureaucrats cloaked in secrecy. Given that the U.S. Congress takes a still more unflattering view of Basel, the stage is set in 2015 for a row with far-reaching impact on the future of cross-border finance.
We earlier this week laid out this 2015 framework in a roadmap of key actions in both the U.S. and global arenas http://bit.ly/1ycORyQ. Look at it and you’ll quickly see how much vital business is left to be finalized next year, statements from global regulators that the hard work is done notwithstanding. With the U.S. determined to demand the highest, toughest standards and the Eurozone bent on its own, far more free-wheeling rules, the global framework could splinter even as each separate piece of it is finalized by global regulators and the U.S.
Take TLAC as a case in point. As our in-depth analysis of the FSB consultation made clear, the proposal leaves a lot of room for national discretion, room sure to get bigger as EU banks persuade their Brussels legislators to balk despite even these concessions. In contrast, the U.S. has already emphasized that it loves TLAC and wants it tougher. Without TLAC, orderly liquidation won’t work and, without orderly liquidation, TBTF is back.
This the U.S. can’t abide. In the Eurozone, TBTF is business as usual – all of the provisions in the EU’s Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive notwithstanding, the framework fundamentally relies on sovereign support for the few large banks that dictate the macroeconomy across the European Union. Basel and the Financial Stability Board are trying to transverse this gaping difference in national objectives, but – as the EC and Congress will be the first to say – it can’t tell anyone what to do. The more it tries, the farther nations retreat into their separate corners, convinced that no one understands them and crafting rules meant for their own statutory regimes and policy objectives.
TLAC isn’t the only ship sailing for a very rocky 2015 harbor. The American Banker today http://bit.ly/1I9mZPa laid out my views on Basel IV, an ambitious workstream with sweeping impact – at least in theory.
What Basel finalizes will be implemented in most member nations, but when and how? If the U.S. continues its “super-equivalent” ways – which it will – and the EU stands even more firmly against those global edicts it dislikes – for sure then a regulatory patchwork results.
For each rule – capital, liquidity, and resolution for example – this patchwork poses an array of policy and profit problems. Ramp up your planning and take them all together – considering here not just what’s been done to date, but also what’s set for 2015 – and we have not only the make-or-break roadmap noted above, but also a lot of landmines across it. The cumulative impact of all of these rules implemented in each nation in its own way could well blow up the best-laid plans of both banks and their regulators.