Big US banks to call on Fed to rewrite contentious bank capital rule

By Michelle Price

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Banks on Tuesday will urge the U.S. Federal Reserve to completely overhaul a draft rule hiking bank capital, in the latest leg of Wall Street’s effort to water down the “Basel Endgame” proposal that bankers say will hurt the economy.

Comments on the Basel rule, and two other big bank capital and long-term debt draft rules that aim to boost banking system safety and soundness, are due on Tuesday.

The deadline offers banks a key opportunity to try to reshape the Basel rule, which they have been fiercely fighting with lobbying and public advertising and media campaigns.

“The impending deluge of negative comments should bolster the case for a more comprehensive shift or a re-proposal,” Isaac Boltansky, director of policy research at brokerage BTIG, wrote on Saturday.

While it is rare for the Fed to rewrite rules, it is not unprecedented. A Fed spokesperson declined to comment. The central bank’s vice chair for supervision and the rule’s key architect Michael Barr has said last year’s banking crisis shows extra capital is necessary to guard against unforeseen shocks.

The rule, first unveiled in July, recalibrates how banks calculate how much cash they must set aside to cover risks.

Banks say it is unnecessary since the industry is already awash with capital, and is so onerous it will hurt products and services from green lending and pension plan services to commodities hedging and Treasury market liquidity. They will call for the Fed to repropose the rule, executives said.

“I very much hope that it is…completely revised,” Citigroup Chief Executive Jane Fraser told reporters during an earnings call on Friday, adding it would hurt U.S. bank competitiveness and push lending into shadow banks.

In an unusual move, bank groups representing Citi, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Bank of America, among others, got ahead of the deadline, on Friday warning the Fed in a public letter that, if finalized, the rule would violate federal laws because it fails to justify why the changes are necessary.

“The agencies have not made the case for this proposal or considered its substantial impacts,” said Kevin Fromer, CEO of the Financial Services Forum, on Tuesday. The group, which represents the CEOs of the largest eight U.S. banks, signed the Friday letter.

Also speaking to reporters on Friday, JPMorgan Chief Financial Officer Jeremy Barnum said litigation “can’t be taken off the table when you’re talking about something of this seriousness,” but that it was not the preferred route.

Barr has said the rule’s effect on borrowing would be limited and U.S. banks have been more competitive than European banks, despite having more capital. Last week he also said the Fed is taking feedback into account and considering fixes.

(Reporting by Michelle Price; Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison and Manya Saini; Editing by Andrea Ricci, Alexandra Hudson)