#OCC

18 03, 2024

Karen Petrou: The OCC Blesses a Buccaneer Bank

2024-03-18T09:03:04-04:00March 18th, 2024|The Vault|

In a column last week, Bloomberg’s Matt Levine rightly observed that only a bank can usually buy another bank.  He thus went on to say that a SPAC named Porticoes ambitions to buy a bank are doomed because Porticoes isn’t a bank.  Here, he’s wrong – Porticoes in fact was allowed last December to become a unique form of national bank licensed to engage in what is often, if unkindly, called vulture capitalism.  This is another OCC charter of convenience atop its approvals leading to NYCB’s woes, and thus yet another contradiction between the agency’s stern warnings on risk when it pops up in existing charters versus its insouciance when it comes to new or novel applications.

According to the OCC’s charter approval, the Porticoes bank has no other purpose than serving as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Porticoes Capital LLC, a Delaware limited-liability company formed to be a proxy for a parent holding company. The parent holdco is “expected” to enter into binding commitments for the capital needed to back its wholly-owned bank plans to acquire a failed bank or even banks.  This is essentially a buy-now, pay-later form of bank chartering, a policy even more striking because funding commitments for the holdco then to downstream – should they materialize – are more than likely to come from private-equity investors who may or may not exercise direct or indirect control.

Based on the OCC’s approval, it seems that Porticoes’s new charter can buy another bank without capital, pre-approval from …

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 …

8 01, 2024

Karen Petrou: Reflections on Regulatory Failure and a Better Way

2024-01-08T11:25:21-05:00January 8th, 2024|The Vault|

Earlier today, we released our 2024 regulatory outlook, a nice summary of which may be found on Politico’s Morning Money.  As I reviewed the draft, I realized how much of what the agencies plan is doomed to do little of what has long been needed to insulate the financial system from repeated shock.  This is a most wearisome thought that then prompted the philosophical reflection also to be found in this brief.  It asks why lots more bank rules do so little for financial resilience yet are always followed by still more rules and then an even bigger bust.   I conclude that financial policy should be founded on Samuel Johnson’s observation that, “when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”  That is, redesign policy from one focused on endless, ever-more-complex rules spawning still larger bureaucracies into credible, certain, painful resolutions to concentrate each financial institution’s mind and that of a market that would no longer be assured of bailout or backstop.

We know in our everyday lives that complex rules backed by empty threats lead to very bad behavior.  For example, most parents do not get their kids to brush their teeth by issuing an edict reading something like:

It has long been demonstrated that brushing your teeth from top to bottom, tooth-by-tooth, flossing hereafter and using toothpaste meeting specifications defined herein will achieve cleaner teeth, a brighter smile, improved public acceptance of the tooth-bearer, and lower cost to …

20 11, 2023

Karen Petrou: The Fate of the End-Game Rules Does not Lie in the FDIC’s Hands

2023-11-20T12:16:01-05:00November 20th, 2023|The Vault|

It’s a hard fact of life that nothing good comes to federal agencies caught up in scandal even when scandal is misplaced.  So the real question for the FDIC is whether the bad already all too evident at the divided banking agency will grow still worse, threatening the FDIC’s ability to participate in pending rulemakings or, even worse, resolutions.  It likely will be no accident if the FDIC comes unglued and the capital and other proposals fall apart.  I think new rules will proceed, but the FDIC’s threat is far from out of the blue.

Is this cynical?  I prefer to think of it as an observation born of experience, but this is a city about which Harry S. Truman famously said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”

FedFin reports last week tracked Marty Gruenberg’s travails before Senate Banking and then again at House Financial Services, with Ranking Member Waters surprisingly aligning herself with her usual GOP enemies when it came to castigating Mr. Gruenberg over sexual-harassment problems at the agency reported by the Wall Street Journal as the week of hearings broke two days before.

And, as the hearing went on, Mr. Gruenberg found himself in even more of a pickle.  In another uncoincidental moment, Chairman McHenry got wind of 2008 allegations against the chair, allegations Mr. Gruenberg belatedly recalled when prompted by yet another poke from the Journal.  Now, Mr. McHenry has opened a formal investigation even as a statement from GOP members of …

6 09, 2023

FedFin on: Long-Term Debt Requirements

2023-09-07T16:38:46-04:00September 6th, 2023|The Vault|

Building on an advance notice of proposed rulemaking, the banking agencies have issued several proposals to enhance the resolvability of large banking organizations not covered by stringent GSIB standards.  Among these is a proposal mandating long-term debt (LTD) to increase regional-bank total loss-absorbing capacity (TLAC) and, the agencies believe, reduce resolution costs and/or increase the FDIC’s options, thus avoiding the systemic designation and costly resolutions that occurred for regional banks earlier this year.  The LTD requirements for category II, III, and IV banking organizations do not go as far as those mandated for GSIBs, based instead exclusively on a “capital-refill” construct in which eligible LTD is issued in amounts the agencies believe sufficient to provide enough capital-equivalent funding to achieve the proposal’s expected results.

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

30 05, 2023

FedFin on: Enforcement Policy

2023-05-30T17:09:49-04:00May 30th, 2023|The Vault|

Following a speech earlier this year by the Acting Comptroller arguing that some banks are “too big to manage” and the furor caused by recent failures, the OCC has significantly revised its enforcement policy.  The new framework requires examiners promptly to intervene if any of a bank’s CAMELS scores slips to 3 for unsatisfactory or if the bank is what CFPB Director Chopra would call a “repeat offender” of law, rule, or express supervisory actions or found deficient in practices necessary to ensuring safety and soundness.

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.…

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.…

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