One of the biggest objections the banking industry has had regarding Dodd-Frank is the level at which banks are considered too big to fail — systemically important financial institutions (SIFI), in the legislation’s parlance.
A Senate agreement meets suggestions that the level be moved from $50 billion in assets, a level that snares the top 35 banks, to $250 billion, which would cut that list to 10. The move then could reverberate to the Fed and cause it to change its stress tests, or Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review, which measures the health of 34 institutions.
“If Congress raises the threshold it might send a powerful political message to the Fed about how non-globally systemically important banks should be treated,” analysts at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods said in a note. “It could also could give the Fed political cover to further ease the CCAR for banks with less than $250 billion in assets.”
An industry that became the focal point of the excesses that caused the financial crisis now finds itself in position for some relief.
In addition to outright Dodd-Frank changes, regulators are likely to change the way supervision and enforcement is carried out, representing an important change from the screw-tightening atmosphere that has prevailed since the crisis.
“Since the Great Depression, whenever you have a new line of laws coming out, after five to 10 years of people living them there always has been an adjustment,” Landy said. “Think of it like a pendulum. There’s always a center.”
In fact, banks aren’t really looking for an overhaul. CEOs of the largest institutions largely have said they’ve learned to live within the Dodd-Frank framework, but believe adjustments are needed, particularly to provisions like the Volcker Rule that prohibits banks from trading for their own benefit.
“They’re comfortable with the basic set of provisions that have been provided,” Landy said. “They do want less burden, less conflicting requirements, more transparency and things [removed] that they don’t think are achieving the goals they were set out to do.”