#merger

27 03, 2024

FedFin on: Bank Merger Policy

2024-03-27T16:44:22-04:00March 27th, 2024|The Vault|

Following its 2022 request for input, the FDIC has released a formal proposal that would redefine the agency’s bank-merger policy into one that will make it difficult for all but the smallest and simplest transactions within its jurisdiction to have the clear prospects for approval usually necessary in non-emergency transactions, subjecting other M&A applications to protracted review with a high likelihood of denial.  Strategic alliances involving nonbanks and/or nonbank affiliates and BHCs with nonbank activities may also come under critical FDIC scrutiny, complicating transactions otherwise under the FRB or OCC’s review….

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

25 03, 2024

Karen Petrou: How the FDIC Fails and Why It Matters So Much

2024-03-25T11:45:45-04:00March 25th, 2024|The Vault|

Last January, we sent a forecast of likely regulatory action and what I called a “philosophical reflection” on the contradiction between the sum total of rules premised on unstoppable taxpayer rescues and U.S. policy that no bank be too big to fail.  Much in our forecast is now coming into public view due to Chair Powell and Vice Chair Barr; more on that to come, but these rules like the proposals are still premised on big-bank blow-outs.  I thus turn here from the philosophical to the pragmatic when it comes to bank resolution, picking up on a stunning admission in the FDIC’s proposed merger policy to ponder what’s really next for U.S. banks regardless of what any of the agencies say will result from all the new rules.

Let me quote at some length from the FDIC’s proposed merger policy:

“In particular, the failure of a large IDI could present greater challenges to the FDIC’s resolution and receivership functions, and could present a broader financial stability threat. For various reasons, including their size, sources of funding, and other organizational complexities, the resolution of large IDIs can present significant risk to the Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF), as well as material operational risk for the FDIC. In addition, as a practical matter, the size of an IDI may limit the resolution options available to the FDIC in the event of failure.”

In short, the FDIC wants to block most big-bank mergers because it can’t ensure orderly resolution of a large insured depository …

26 02, 2024

Karen Petrou: The Unintended Consequences of Blocking the Credit-Card Merger

2024-04-12T09:46:02-04:00February 26th, 2024|The Vault|

There is no doubt that the banking agencies have approved all too many dubious merger applications along with charter conversions of convenience.  However, the debate roiling over the Capital One/Discover merger harkens to an earlier age of thousands more prosperous small banks all operating strictly within a perimeter guarded by top-notch consumer, community, and prudential regulators.  Whether this ever existed is at best uncertain.  What is for sure is that all this nostalgia for a halcyon past will hasten a future dominated by GSIBs and systemic-scale nonbanks still operating outside flimsy regulatory guardrails.

The best way to demonstrate this awkward certainty is to run a counter-factual – that is, think about what the world would look like if opponents of the Capital One/Discover deal get their way.  Would we quickly see a return to card competition housed firmly within a tightly-regulated system?  Would the payment system be loosed from Visa and Mastercard’s grip?  Would merchants see the dawn of a new era of itsy-bitsy interchange fees?  Would card rates plummet and rewards stay splendiferous?  I very much doubt it.  Space here does not permit a detailed assessment of the analytics underlying my conclusions, so let’s go straight to each of them.  

First, banning the CapOne/Discover deal would not ensure robust card competition under strict bank regulation.  JPMorgan’s and American Express’ formidable stakes could grow because credit-card lending is a business dependent on economies of scale and scope vital to capital-efficiency through the secondary market.  However, large banks will

20 02, 2024

Karen Petrou: How the OCC Made a Bad Bank Both Bigger and Badder

2024-04-12T09:48:06-04:00February 20th, 2024|The Vault|

As I noted last week, the OCC’s proposed bank-merger policy fails to reckon with the strong supervisory and regulatory powers federal banking agencies already have to quash problematic consolidations and concentrations.  Here, I turn to one reason why the OCC may not trust these rules:  it doesn’t trust itself.  A bit of recent history shows all too well why this self-doubt is warranted even though it’s also inexcusable.

I owe my historical recall to the authoritative Bank Reg Blog, which last week looked at the latest on NYCB.  This included a troubling reminder of the troubled bank’s merger with Flagstar before it thought it snapped up another great deal from the FDIC via acquiring what was left of Signature Bank.

NYCB first sought approval for the Flagstar acquisition in 2021 when its primary federal regulator was the FDIC.  As is often the case with merger applications, this one appeared to go into a dark hole.  Unlike many other acquisitions, the banking companies had a go-to Plan B: charter conversion.

NYCB went to the OCC and got rapid approval not just for converting its charter to a national bank, but also then for acquiring Flagstar via a reverse flip that also involved a Flagstar conversion to a national charter.  The OCC then readily approved the merger in 2022, just in time for some of the super-rapid growth via the Signature deal both the OCC and FDIC approved even though they should have been well aware that rapid-fire mergers almost always lead …

12 02, 2024

Karen Petrou: How to Have Sound Bank-Merger Policy Reflecting Unique Bank Regulation

2024-04-12T10:31:00-04:00February 12th, 2024|The Vault|

Chair Powell said a week ago that, thanks to commercial real estate risk, some banks will need to be “closed” or “merged out of existence,” hopefully adding that these will be “smaller banks for the most part.”  That this may befall the banking system sooner than Mr. Powell suggested is all too apparent from NYCB’s travails. The OCC’s new merger proposal flies in the face of this hard reality, dooming mergers of size or maybe even small ones until it’s too late. A surprising source – a super-progressive analysis of bank merger policy – makes it clear why the OCC’s approach is not only high-risk, but also ill-conceived.

The paper comes from Saule T. Omarova, President Biden’s nominee to be Comptroller who was forced to withdraw, and the Administration’s most recent Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions, Graham Steele.  As befits their longstanding views, the paper presses for stringent bank-merger policy to combat what Justice Brandeis first called the “money trusts.” Ms. Omarova and Mr. Steele say that banks of all sizes are still “money trusts” despite the role of omnipotent private-equity and asset-management firms, but so goes much of their analysis.  What’s more interesting in their report and a new petition filed by a like-minded academic is their ground-breaking, hard look at how much of bank regulation is actually intended to curtail undue market power.  Taking this into account could lead to sound merger policy without the adverse consequences evident in the OCC’s drop-dead proposal.

There are in fact many …

25 07, 2023

FedFin Analysis: U.S. Merger Policy

2023-07-25T17:18:51-04:00July 25th, 2023|The Vault|

Building on a request for comment, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have now proposed specific revisions to U.S. merger policy that significantly redirect the manner in which M&A transactions – even if only for minority positions – will be considered.  Although this is only a draft statement, it tracks much of what President Biden laid out in his 2021 executive order on U.S. competition policy and actions since then by the DOJ and the FTC.  As a result, the guidelines are more of a roadmap providing clarity than a new approach unless the final version differs substantively in any major way or future Administrations adopt a different policy.  Near-term U.S. merger policy makes it considerably more difficult to finalize horizontal, vertical, and even minority holdings, a challenge likely to be particularly acute in U.S. financial services where government agencies believe there is …

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

20 07, 2023

FedFin on: Senate Banking Kicks Deposit-Insurance Reform Down the Road

2023-07-21T17:03:13-04:00July 20th, 2023|The Vault|

In the wake of today’s Senate Banking deposit-insurance reform hearing, it seems certain that there will be no legislation in the near term and most likely in this Congress to increase FDIC-insurance thresholds.  Although the FDIC recommended a new approach to transaction accounts in its policy review following recent bank failures (see Client Report DEPOSITINSURANCE119), Senators on both sides of the aisle demurred.  Chairman Brown (D-OH) made it clear that any change in FDIC-coverage limits is conditioned on final, tougher bank regulations, essentially telling banks that successfully opposing new rules means keeping FDIC coverage as is….

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

10 07, 2023

Karen Petrou: The Bankruptcy of Bank-Merger Policy

2023-07-10T14:18:07-04:00July 10th, 2023|The Vault|

On Wednesday, a Senate Banking subcommittee will consider bank-merger policy, surely providing a platform for its chair, Sen. Warren’s pronounced views opposing all but the smallest bank mergers and maybe not even those.  Many other senators are not as adamant, but even pro-business Republicans – see J.D. Vance – think bank mergers beyond the itty-bitty are at best problematic.  The politics of this debate is obvious; the substance not so much.  As with many other questions, bank-merger policy is best set with a keen understanding of recent, objective research and what it actually says about concentration as it occurs outside the gaze of those fearful only of still bigger big banks.

That there is undue market power in a financialized economy that brings a raft of woes is all too clear.  I thus hoped that Assistant Attorney General Kanter’s remarks last month would be a meaningful update of the Department of Justice’s anachronistic 1995 policy.  It helped, but only a bit because Mr. Kanter focused principally on enforcement, leaving “broader” questions solely to the banking agencies.

They in turn have long promised a transparent merger policy, but it’s still deal-by-deal, case-by-case, crisis-by-crisis.  More than a few mid-sized banks will wither away as deliberations continue because the sheer uncertainty and delays of most bank mergers undermine their economic value, particularly at a time of high interest rates, slow or no growth, tough new rules, and withering competition.

Recent antitrust research does not substantiate easy, blanket assertions about the benefits or …

22 05, 2023

Karen Petrou: How to Ensure That Independent Study of Regulatory Mistakes Leads to Near-Term, Meaningful Redress and Reform

2023-05-22T11:47:33-04:00May 22nd, 2023|The Vault|

Last week, a moderate Senate Democrat was joined by a Republican in yet another letter demanding an independent investigation of regulatory actions related to recent bank failures.  But, as the absence of specifics in any of these letters makes clear, it’s a lot easier to call for independent inquiry than to lay out how to conduct one that might make a meaningful difference.  Precedent is not encouraging – for example, Congress created a Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission after 2008, but it was an unqualified waste of time and money.  Still, we urgently need an independent assessment of what went so wrong combined with another providing near-term, actionable reforms.  Having served on one post-crisis national commission that did a bit of good, I recommend separating the forensic inquiry from the one focused on the future, guarding against conflicts without eliminating expertise, and assessing only a few clear questions suitable for practical answers that can be readily accomplished under current law.

The first decision point determines all the rest:  whether the independent analysis is to be forensic – who dropped which heavy ball on whose toes – or focused on the future – what we learned and what to do about it.  Many of the proposals for an independent commission, including the Congressional letter noted above, want their commission to do both, but none could do so well and asking for this is thus asking for trouble.

A good forensic analysis will reduce the moral hazard enjoyed by federal supervisors long exempt …

24 03, 2023

FedFin Analysis: Whom and What the FDIC and Fed Can Save How

2023-03-24T17:05:38-04:00March 24th, 2023|The Vault|

Recent editorials and other media have often said that the FRB and/or FDIC have powers or taken actions that is not the factual case as we understand it.  Members of Congress also appear sometimes willing to make assertions about what agencies can do now even if it is unclear if there is statutory authority to do so.  We have provided individual clients with key clarifications, but do so now more generally to support strategic and advocacy decision-making.  Of particular importance is the authority the FDIC is said to have or lack related to uninsured deposits; as detailed below, the agency actually has significant authority to do so as well as even to back BHC debt, as long as certain stringent conditions are met.  As detailed in FSM Report RESCUE65, Congress limited both the FDIC and Fed in hopes that….

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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