28 05, 2024

Karen Petrou: Why Regulators Fail

2024-05-28T12:38:29-04:00May 28th, 2024|The Vault|

Last week, the House voted on a bipartisan basis to stick its collective fingers in the SEC’s eye over its cryptoasset jurisdiction.  And, in recent weeks, the Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve has been forced to concede that the end-game capital rules that are his handiwork as much as anyone’s will get a “broad, material” rewrite.  What do these two comeuppances have in common?  Each results from regulatory hubris so extraordinary that even erstwhile allies abandoned the cause.  For all MAGA fears about an omnipotent “administrative state,” these episodes show that those seeking sweeping change without plausible rationales are still subject to the will of the people even if the people’s will befuddles those in the government’s corner offices.

First to the SEC.  Chairman Gensler’s position on cryptoassets over the past three years is that many ways to use them are securities and anything that’s a security is his for the enforcing.  I’m not even going to venture a conclusion on who’s right or wrong when it comes to abstruse Supreme Court rulings on complex definitions.  What underpins the SEC’s downfall – temporary though it may be – is that any question as big as what’s a cryptoasset and who can do what with it should be answered by rules subject to public notice and comment, not episodic enforcement actions meant to teach everyone else a lesson.

Most people would learn the lesson if a coherent regulatory policy spelled it out.  When policy is set by whack-a-mole instead of …

11 08, 2023

FedFin on : Stablecoin/Tokenization Activities

2023-08-11T16:25:47-04:00August 11th, 2023|The Vault|

In conjunction with issuing a new supervisory policy for “novel” activities, the FRB has instituted a new process requiring non-objection letters before state member banks proceed with stablecoin or dollar-tokenization activities.  Although the new non-objection process makes it clear that Fed approval will require clear adherence to a raft of policy and legal obligations, the non-objection process clears the way for state member banks to offer products with a growing role in retail and wholesale payment, settlement, and clearing activities.

The full report is available to retainer clients. To find out how you can sign up for the service, click here and here.…

6 03, 2023

Karen Petrou: Why Way-Woke Won’t Work in 2023

2023-03-06T16:31:48-05:00March 6th, 2023|The Vault|

The fact that both the House and Senate passed a Congressional Review Act resolution overturning the Department of Labor’s ESG standards makes it clear that striking an anti-woke blow is deemed good politics by red and purple politicians. The President’s certain veto also makes it clear that a blue man sees matters quite differently, as did 204 House Democrats and 46 of their Senate colleagues. This stalemate will continue for changes to federal law, but it won’t stop Republicans from taking a lot out on financial regulators and big banks that they can’t get into the law books. Thus, anyone deemed even a bit woke-ful will get an earful.

Even if all these excoriations are only rhetorical, they will prove meaningful because even federal regulators immune from the appropriations process are susceptible to political influence – as well they should be if they are not also to be unaccountable. That anti-wokeness is already making its mark is evident in many ways, most recently in the inter- agency crypto-liquidity risk statement at great pains to refute any Republican suggestion that tough new standards amount to a blanket ban on engaging in any form of legal cryptoasset activity. In essence, the new statement says, “banks can do crypto if it’s legal, but they almost surely shouldn’t do crypto because it’s way risky and we’re watching.”

To be sure, anything crypto isn’t always toxic. Another way the agencies will handle accusations that they are conducting a stealth-woke anti-crypto campaign is to make it …

28 02, 2023

FedFin on: Senate Banking Questions Sanctions Regime, Vows Stronger Prohibitions

2023-02-28T16:31:06-05:00February 28th, 2023|The Vault|

In a remarkably bipartisan session, the Senate Banking Committee today made it clear that Congress wants tougher sanctions against Russia, near-term action against hold-out nations to oil-price caps and other efforts, and perhaps even confiscation of Russian assets to fund U.S. Ukraine aid.  The panel was also united on the need to swiftly punish China should relations deteriorate.  Several bills likely soon to advance were discussed, including soon-to-be-reintroduced Warren-Marshall legislation to extend AML and sanctions standards more effectively to cryptoassets and Rounds-Tester legislation (S. 168) to bar persons from sanctioned nations from purchasing agricultural property….

The full report is available to retainer clients. To find out how you can sign up for the service, click here and here.…

28 02, 2023

FedFin on: Crypto-Related Funding Risk

2023-02-28T15:44:17-05:00February 28th, 2023|The Vault|

In the wake of revelations by Silvergate and other banks about significant deposit exposures to cryptoasset entities, federal banking agencies have issued a statement about the need to manage liquidity risk associated with cryptoassets.  The agencies are at pains to emphasize that nothing in this statement is new, thereby retaining flexibility to take action against banks with prior, problematic exposures.  Although nothing in the statement bars doing business with cryptoasset firms, it will discourage some banks from doing so even as it reminds others to avoid stresses recently seen at several banks….

The full report is available to retainer clients. To find out how you can sign up for the service, click here and here.…

24 02, 2023

FedFin on: Custody Reform

2023-02-24T16:53:29-05:00February 24th, 2023|The Vault|

Making full use of powers granted in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, the SEC is proposing a wholesale rewrite of the rules dictating how investment advisers must place assets in custody and which institutions are considered qualified for this purpose. Although the proposal was sparked first by controversies surrounding custody for cryptoassets and then by significant investment losses, the NPR reaches most assets held in the direct or indirect possession of investment advisers or to which the adviser may gain possession, also redefining qualified custodians to exclude not only most crypto platforms, but also foreign firms and other entities the Commission believes do not ensure sufficient safeguards protecting investor assets in the event of the adviser’s malfeasance, insolvency, or operational failure….

The full report is available to retainer clients. To find out how you can sign up for the service, click here and here.…

14 02, 2023

FedFin on: Crypto Set For Senate AML, Reserve Rewrite

2023-02-15T16:13:52-05:00February 14th, 2023|The Vault|

Although Chairman Brown (D-OH) remained non-committal on the need for crypto legislation, he emphatically called for reform to protect consumers and investors.  Sen. Warren (D-MA) plans to reintroduce bipartisan legislation extending AML requirements to crypto firms, while Sen. Tillis (R-NC) announced that he is working on a bill addressing proof of reserves and asset segregation.  Sen. Lummis (R-WY) was not present, but also plans to reintroduce her sweeping crypto bill (see FSM Report CRYPTO28) in this Congress following revisions that reflect…

The full report is available to retainer clients. To find out how you can sign up for the service, click here and here.…

1 02, 2023

FedFin on: State Member Bank Powers

2023-02-01T16:54:12-05:00February 1st, 2023|The Vault|

In conjunction with rejecting an uninsured crypto bank’s application for Federal Reserve membership, the Federal Reserve issued a policy statement conforming state member bank powers only to those authorized for national banks even if the state member is an uninsured depository institution. While it is possible for state member banks to gain greater powers following Fed deliberations, the new approach sharply limits the ability of states to empower uninsured charters not only focused on cryptoasset activities, but….

The full report is available to retainer clients. To find out how you can sign up for the service, click here and here.…

17 01, 2023

Karen Petrou: How FHLBs Miss the Mission, Heighten Financial Risk

2023-01-17T17:01:18-05:00January 17th, 2023|The Vault|

Recent revelations about the Federal Home Loan Bank System have made it still more imperative to address whether at least $1 trillion of implicitly-guaranteed federal debt should be authorized to feather the FHLBs’ pockets instead of furthering public welfare.  As we detailed in a recent client report,  flat-out mission contradictions are clear in the case of a crypto-heavy bank’s use of FHLB funding as a lifeline which it surely obtained because the System can lend with impunity because it has a prior lien ahead of even the FDIC.  However, this case isn’t the only current mission conundrum.  The other is little-noticed but at least as problematic: the extent to which Home Loan Banks lend not to support homes, but instead to give foreign banks in the U.S. a tidy revenue source via a nifty interest-rate arbitrage play that disadvantages U.S. banks and may even threaten financial stability and monetary-policy transmission.

But first to the question of whether the FHLB System is required to do better.  It would seem totally obvious that Home Loan Banks issue debt through the System’s Office of Finance thanks to taxpayer benefits.  However, in connection with a discussion of the prior lien, an FHLB spokeswoman said the System operates without any resort to taxpayers.  Leaving aside the fact that the Banks don’t pay taxes and couldn’t raise hundreds of billions at near-Treasury spreads if they weren’t cushioned in the taxpayers’ bosom, the law says these entities are agencies of the U.S. Government and regulates …

12 01, 2023

FedFin on: Financial-Policy Consequences of Silvergate’s Travails

2023-01-12T11:04:34-05:00January 12th, 2023|The Vault|

Karen Petrou’s memo earlier this week and her comments to the American Banker about Silvergate have sparked many client questions.  In this report, we provide additional context for aspects of this bank’s condition with policy consequences.   High-profile cases such as this have a long history of suddenly shifting long-pending policies; depending on outcomes, this bank’s challenges and those of any other crypto-heavy banks will almost surely do so.  In general, the case already confirms U.S. regulators of the wisdom of additional capital for crypto-exposed banks along the lines recently finalized by global regulators (see FSM Report CRYPTO37).  However, it also raises significant questions about the role of the Federal Home Loan Banks, brokered deposits, resolution policy, and AOCI recognition – and these are just for starters as the bank struggles to stay afloat.

The full report is available to retainer clients. To find out how you can sign up for the service, click here and here.…

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