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GRETCHEN MORGENSON: Too Large for Stains

GRETCHEN MORGENSON: Too Large for Stains


By GRETCHEN MORGENSON The Wall Street Journal

Published: June 25, 2010

OUR nation’s Congressional machinery was humming last week as legislators reconciled the differences between the labyrinthine financial reforms proposed by the Senate and the House and emerged early Friday morning with a voluminous new law in hand. They christened it the Dodd-Frank bill, after the heads of the Senate Banking and House Financial Services Committees who drove the process toward the finish line.

The bill is awash in so much minutiae that by late Friday its ultimate impact on the financial services industry was still unclear. Certainly, the bill, which the full Congress has yet to approve, is the most comprehensive in decades, touching hedge funds, private equity firms, derivatives and credit cards. But is it the “strong Wall Street reform bill,” that Christopher Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat, said it is?

For this law to be the groundbreaking remedy its architects claimed, it needed to do three things very well: protect consumers from abusive financial products, curb dangerous risk taking by institutions and cut big and interconnected financial entities down to size. So far, the report card is mixed.

On the final item, the bill fails completely. After President Obama signs it into law, the nation’s financial industry will still be dominated by a handful of institutions that are too large, too interconnected and too politically powerful to be allowed to go bankrupt if they make unwise decisions or make huge wrong-way bets.

Speaking of large and politically connected entities, Dodd-Frank does nothing about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the $6.5 trillion mortgage finance behemoths that have been wards of the state for almost two years. That was apparently a bridge too far — not surprising, given the support that Mr. Dodd and Mr. Frank lent to Fannie and Freddie back in the good old days when the companies were growing their balance sheets to the bursting point.

So what does the bill do about abusive financial products and curbing financial firms’ appetites for excessive risk?

For consumers and individual investors, Dodd-Frank promises greater scrutiny on financial “innovations,” the products that line bankers’ pockets but can harm users. The creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau within the Federal Reserve Board is intended to bring a much-needed consumer focus to a regulatory regime that was nowhere to be seen during the last 20 years.

It is good that the bill grants this bureau autonomy by assigning it separate financing and an independent director. But the structure of the bureau could have been stronger.

For example, the bill still lets the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency bar state consumer protections where no federal safeguards exist. This is a problem that was well known during the mortgage mania when the comptroller’s office beat back efforts by state authorities to curtail predatory lending.

And Dodd-Frank inexplicably exempts loans provided by auto dealers from the bureau’s oversight. This is as benighted as exempting loans underwritten by mortgage brokers.

Finally, the Financial Stability Oversight Council, the überregulator to be led by the Treasury secretary and made up of top financial regulators, can override the consumer protection bureau’s rules. If the council says a rule threatens the soundness or stability of the financial system, it can be revoked.

Given that financial regulators — and the comptroller’s office is not alone in this — often seem to think that threats to bank profitability can destabilize the financial system, the consumer protection bureau may have a tougher time doing its job than many suppose.

ONE part of the bill that will help consumers and investors is the section exempting high-quality mortgage loans from so-called risk retention requirements. These rules, intended to make mortgage originators more prudent in lending, force them to hold on to 5 percent of a mortgage security that they intend to sell to investors.

But Dodd-Frank sensibly removes high-quality mortgages — those made to creditworthy borrowers with low loan-to-value ratios — from the risk retention rule. Requiring that lenders keep a portion of these loans on their books would make loans more expensive for prudent borrowers; it would likely drive smaller lenders out of the business as well, causing further consolidation in an industry that is already dominated by a few powerful players.

“This goes a long way toward realigning incentives for good underwriting and risk retention where it needs to be retained,” said Jay Diamond, managing director at Annaly Capital Management. “With qualified mortgages, the risk retention is with the borrower who has skin in the game. It’s in the riskier mortgages, where the borrower doesn’t have as much at stake, that the originator should be keeping the risk.”

In the interests of curbing institutional risk-taking, Dodd-Frank rightly takes aim at derivatives and proprietary trading, in which banks make bets using their own money. On derivatives, the bill lets banks conduct trades for customers in interest rate swaps, foreign currency swaps, derivatives referencing gold and silver, and high-grade credit-default swaps. Banks will also be allowed to trade derivatives for themselves if hedging existing positions.

But trading in credit-default swaps referencing lower-grade securities, like subprime mortgages, will have to be run out of bank subsidiaries that are separately capitalized. These subsidiaries may have to raise capital from the parent company, diluting the bank’s existing shareholders.

Banks did win on the section of the bill restricting their investments in private equity firms and hedge funds to 3 percent of bank capital. That number is large enough so as not to be restrictive, and the bill lets banks continue to sponsor and organize such funds.

On proprietary trading, however, the bill gets tough on banks, said Ernest T. Patrikis, a partner at White & Case, by limiting their bets to United States Treasuries, government agency obligations and municipal issues. “Foreign exchange and gold and silver are out,” he said. “This is good for foreign banks if it applies to U.S. banks globally.”

That’s a big if. Even the Glass-Steagall legislation applied only domestically, he noted. Nevertheless, Mr. Patrikis concluded: “The bill is a win for consumers and bad for banks.”

Even so, last Friday, investors seemed to view the bill as positive for banks; an index of their stocks rose 2.7 percent on the day. That reaction is a bit of a mystery, given that higher costs, lower returns and capital raises lie ahead for financial institutions under Dodd-Frank.

Then again, maybe investors are already counting on the banks doing what they do best: figuring out ways around the new rules and restrictions.

A version of this article appeared in print on June 27, 2010, on page BU1 of the New York edition.

© 2010-17 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



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Basel II Overview: Basel II framework that sets capital requirements for banks.

Basel II Overview: Basel II framework that sets capital requirements for banks.


Basel II Summary – What is Important to Know About the Basel II Framework By George J Lekatis

What is Basel II? Who is behind it? Who has developed it? Is it an international law? Do we have to comply? Who has to comply? May I have a Basel II Summary? These are very important questions, and it is good to start from their answers.

The Basel II Framework (the official name is “International Convergence of Capital Measurement and Capital Standards: a Revised Framework”) is a new set of international standards and best practices that define the minimum capital requirements for internationally active banks. Banks have to maintain a minimum level of capital, to ensure that they can meet their obligations, they can cover unexpected losses, and can promote public confidence (which is of paramount importance for the international banking system).

Banks like to invest their money, not keep them for future risks. Regulatory capital (the minimum capital required) is an obligation. A low level of capital is a threat for the banking system itself: Banks may fail, depositors may lose their money, or they may not trust banks any more. This framework establishes an international minimum standard.

Basel II will be applied on a consolidated basis (combining the bank’s activities in the home country and in the host countries).

The framework has been developed by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS), which is a committee in the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the world’s oldest international financial organization (established on 17 May 1930).

The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision was established by the G10 (Group of Ten countries) in 1974. These 10 countries (have become 11) are the rich and developed countries: Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The G10 were behind the development of the previous (Basel i) framework, and now they have endorsed the new Basel II set of papers (the main paper and the many explanatory papers). Only banks in the G10 countries have to implement the framework, but more than 100 countries have volunteered to adopt these principles, or to take these principles into account, and use them as the basis for their national rulemaking process.

Basel i was not risk sensitive. All loans given to corporate borrowers were subject to the same capital requirement, without taking into account the ability of the counterparties to repay. We ignored the credit rating, the credit history, the risk management and the corporate governance structure of all corporate borrowers. They were all the same: Private corporations.

Basel II is much more risk sensitive, as it is aligning capital requirements to the risks of loss. Better risk management in a bank means that the bank may be able to allocate less regulatory capital.

In Basel II we have three Pillars:

Pillar 1 has to do with the calculation of the minimum capital requirements. There are different approaches:

The standardized approach to credit risk: Banks rely on external measures of credit risk (like the credit rating agencies) to assess the credit quality of their borrowers.

The Internal Ratings-Based (IRB) approaches too credit risk: Banks rely partly or fully on their own measures of a counterparty’s credit risk, and determine their capital requirements using internal models.

Banks have to allocate capital to cover the Operational Risk (risk of loss because of errors, fraud, disruption of IT systems, external events, litigation etc.). This can be a difficult exercise.

The Basic Indicator Approach links the capital charge to the gross income of the bank. In the Standardized Approach, we split the bank into 7 business lines, and we have 7 different capital allocations, one per business line. The Advanced Measurement Approaches are based on internal models and years of loss experience.

Pillar 2 covers the Supervisory Review Process. It describes the principles for effective supervision.

Supervisors have the obligation to evaluate the activities, corporate governance, risk management and risk profiles of banks to determine whether they have to change or to allocate more capital for their risks (called Pillar 2 capital).

Pillar 3 covers transparency and the obligation of banks to disclose meaningful information to all stakeholders. Clients and shareholders should have a sufficient understanding of the activities of banks, and the way they manage their risks.

Here is a simple video to follow: By bionicturtledotcom

Quick overview of Basel II framework that sets capital requirements for banks. Three pillars contains the rules & support (supervisor review, market discipline) that say how much eligible regulatory capital must be held against risk-weighted assets.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2kGYUP7Vro]

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GARY DUBIN LAW OFFICES FORECLOSURE DEFENSE HAWAII and CALIFORNIA
Kenneth Eric Trent, www.ForeclosureDestroyer.com

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