REGULATORY CAPITAL; BASEL III AND THE STANDARDIZED APPROACH
- ICBA supports strong capital requirements for all banks.
- ICBA achieved major victories in the Basel III final rule including accommodations on accumulated other comprehensive income (AOCI), residential mortgage risk weights, and TruPS.
- Bank holding companies and thrift holding companies should be treated consistently with respect to capital standards.
- Basel III should be amended to recognize the loss absorbing capacity of the allowance for loan and lease losses (ALLL). Specifically, ALLL should be included in Tier 1 capital in an amount up to 1.25% of risk weighted assets and the remaining balance of ALLL should qualify for inclusion in Tier 2 capital.
- Capital standards should not discourage community banks from acquiring mortgage servicing assets. ICBA opposes the Basel III deduction thresholds that are applied to mortgage servicing assets.
- Basel III should be amended to exempt community banks from the harsh provisions of the capital conservation buffer. In particular, Subchapter S banks should not be restricted from paying dividends to cover owners’ pro-rata tax liability. The buffer also has a disproportionate adverse impact on mutual banks as well as any bank that relies on retained earnings to build capital, particularly in a low interest rate environment.
- Capital standards should not disadvantage community banks relative to credit unions.
- ICBA supports the proposed enhanced supplementary leverage ratio standards that strengthen the leverage ratios for the eight largest financial institution holding companies and their subsidiary banks.
- Banking regulators should not impose liquidity coverage ratio restrictions on high-quality investment securities that would impact the liquidity of those securities for community banks.
ICBA supports strong minimum capital levels for all banks, including community banks. However, the original proposed Basel III capital rules for all financial institutions failed to recognize that community banks were not the cause of the recent financial crisis of 2008-09. Their simplified balance sheets, conservative lending practices, and common sense underwriting shielded their regulatory capital balances from the losses that heavily impacted the large, complex, internationally-active and interconnected financial institutions. ICBA achieved some major milestone victories in the Basel III final rule including the exclusion of AOCI, with its capital volatility, from common equity tier 1 capital, allowing community banks to continue using the Basel I risk weights, rather than a punitive risk weight scheme, for their mortgage exposures, and grandfathering the inclusion of TruPS as tier 1 capital for certain community bank financial institutions and TruPS issuances, consistent with Congressional intent.
The Basel III final rule is not perfect and continues to punish community banks at a time when they need major regulatory relief from burdensome capital rules. The limited applicability of Basel III to top tier bank holding companies of $500 million or less in total assets did not extend to savings and loan holding companies of the same size – an unjustified disparity which should be corrected. Basel III largely fails to recognize the loss absorption abilities of the ALLL by not permitting the inclusion of a component of the ALLL in tier 1 capital. ICBA believes that the ALLL should be included in tier 1 capital in an amount up to 1.25% of risk weighted assets and the remaining balance of ALLL should qualify for inclusion in Tier 2 capital. Additionally, the deduction of mortgage servicing rights when they exceed 10% of common equity tier 1 capital unfairly penalizes community banks from servicing their own loan production and fails to recognize the value of these important assets.
Most importantly, the Basel III final rule imposes a capital conservation buffer for all measures of minimum regulatory capital. This is harmful to all community banks. Mutual banks and other banks that rely on retained earnings to build capital will be disproportionately impacted. Moreover, the conservation buffer and is particularly damaging for Subchapter S banks. Subchapter S shareholders rely on dividends to cover their tax liability on their pro-rata share of the banks’ earnings. If a bank is prevented from paying dividends because it has not satisfied the capital conservation buffer, shareholders will be forced to find other means of covering their tax liability. This prospect will only exacerbate Subchapter S banks’ difficulty in raising new capital. Consequently, these institutions will be required to hold an additional buffer to ensure that they never put their shareholders at risk of violating the capital conservation buffer.
ICBA supports the recently proposed enhanced supplementary leverage ratio standards on the eight largest financial institutions in the United States that introduces common sense leverage ratios for these institutions. Higher leverage capital for the largest too-big-to-fail megabanks is a good first step in ensuring that these banks mitigate their risk to taxpayers. ICBA is concerned that any restrictions placed on high quality mortgage assets like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage-backed securities, financial instruments widely held by community banks, will reduce the liquidity of these securities and adversely impact their fair values. Regulators should ensure that GSE securities get the high quality liquidity recognition they deserve as is currently reflected in the capital markets.
Staff Contact: James Kendrick