EU Commission publishes consultation paper on RRP for non-banks

Introduction

On 5 October 2012, the European Commission published a consultation paper on a possible recovery and resolution framework for financial institutions other than banks.  The aim of the consultation is to ensure that all nonbank financial institutions the failure of which could threaten financial stability are capable of being resolved in an orderly manner and with minimal cost to taxpayers.  Responses are requested by 28 December 2012.  A more detailed summary of the consultation paper is provided below.

Defining ‘Systemic Risk’

The consultation paper concludes that, with the exception of central counterparties (CCPs) and central securities depositories (CSDs), it is difficult to establish in advance which nonbanks are likely to be sources of systemic risk.  As such, it is necessary to have a framework that applies to all firms, both those identified as systemic ex ante and after an event of failure.  As to the question of when a specific institution might be considered as being a source of systemic risk, the following are identified as key factors:

  • size;
  • inter-connectedness; and
  • substitutability of services.

Financial Market Infrastructures (FMIs)

Central Counterparties

The Commission notes that there is a high risk of contagion associated with CCPs as:

  • they are strongly inter-connected with other FMIs and other financial institutions;
  • they often operate on an almost quasi-monopolistic basis; and
  • clearing members of a CCP are often also clearing members of other CCPs, with the effect that losses suffered by a clearing member on the failure of a CCP could indirectly impact other CCPs (if these losses triggered a default vis-a-vis the other CCPs).

The consultation paper makes reference to measures employed by CCPs which act as safeguards with respect to the risks they face:

Risk

Safeguard 

Credit risk and liquidity risk
  •   Initial margin
  •   Variation margin
  •   Default fund contributions
  •   Own capital
Operational risk
  • Contingency arrangements such as   those required by Article 34 of EMIR
Market risk
  • Investment restrictions such as   those required by Article 47 of EMIR
  • Haircuts

 Central Securities Depositories

The principal risks to which CSDs are exposed are operational and legal in nature, with legal risks being particularly relevant given the cross-border nature of some CSD activities.  However, the services provided by CSDs are characterised by their high levels of interconnection and their low degree of substitutability.  Therefore, if managed in a disorderly fashion, the failure of a CSD could have considerable effects on the financial system.

Recovery and resolution of CCPs and CSDs

The most critical element of CCP/CSD resolution is to ensure the continuation of systemically important functions and services.  This is achieved through a combination of recovery and resolution plans.  Authorities should also be able to intervene in the business of a firm prior to the triggering of a resolution condition, if it is in breach of its regulatory requirements.  However, resolution of an FMI must be conducted in a manner which preserves the principle of ‘no creditor worse off than in insolvency’.  In addition, the normal hierarchy of claims in insolvency and pari passu treatment of creditors of the same class should be respected.

Resolution triggers for CCPs and CSDs are the same as for banks and should be set at the point when a firm is no longer viable or likely to be no longer viable, and has no reasonable prospect of becoming so.  A further condition for resolution is that its failure and the disruption of its services must have systemic implications.  The balance between the need for flexibility in triggering resolution on the one hand and the need for clarity as to the level of the trigger on the other hand are both recognised.

In the context of FMI resolution, authorities should have the power to:

  • remove and replace a firm’s senior management;
  • appoint an administrator;
  • operate, restructure and/or wind-down a firm;
  • transfer or sell specified assets or liabilities;
  • establish a temporary bridge institution;
  • separate non-performing assets into a distinct vehicle;
  • recapitalise an entity by amending or converting specified parts of its balance sheet;
  • override rights of shareholders;
  • impose a temporary stay on the exercise of early termination rights;
  • impose a moratorium on payment-flows; and
  • effect an orderly closure/wind-down.

With respect to the resolution tools at the disposal of authorities, the difficulties of applying the Sale of Business tool is recognised, due to:

  • the relative lack of firms in the industry;
  • the different nature of an FMI’s assets and liabilities;
  • operational constraints such as IT system incompatibility; and
  • the competition issues which may flow from ownership structures.

In addition, as the core assets of an FMI (its technical facilities and processes, infrastructure and know-how) do not tend to cause losses in the way a bank’s assets might, they do not merit being transferred to a separate ‘bad’ asset management vehicle under the Asset Separation Tool.  In turn, these facts increase the importance of the Bridge Institution Tool as a method of resolving a failed FMI due to the fact that this will enable authorities to ensure the continuity of critical services whilst a private sector purchaser is identified.

Of most interest is the discussion of the use of the Bail-In Tool with respect to FMIs.  FMIs typically do not issue debt which can be made subject to a haircut or converted into equity for the purposes of loss allocation or recapitalisation.  It is noted that loss-allocation mechanisms, for example CCP default funds, already exist for some FMIs. However, these arrangements are primarily concerned with loss-allocation rather than recapitalisation.  With respect to the resolution of a CCP, the following options were identified:

Bail-In Option

Advantages

Disadvantages 

Applying haircuts to initial margin
  • Funds are available for immediate use
  • Initial margin levels may need   to increase across the board
  • Possibility that this departs from the principle of ‘no creditor worse off than in insolvency’
Applying   haircuts to payments of variation margin
  • Funds are available for immediate use
  • Does not have pro-cyclical effects for out-of-the-money payors
  •  Has pro-cyclical effects for in-the-money payees
  • Possibility that this departs from the principle of ‘no creditor worse off than in insolvency’
Specific   liquidity calls on clearing members
  • Avoids random allocation of losses resulting from margin haircuts

 

  • Increased pro-cyclicality due to the fact that all clearing members are called for funds
Establishment   of ex-ante resolution funds
  • Avoids negative countercyclical   impact
  • Difficulty in calculating appropriate levels of contribution
Issuance of CoCo bonds by CCPs
  • Burden would not fall on clearing members
  • Uncertainty as to market for CoCo bonds

The Commission also noted that the industry has considered providing CCPs with a right to terminate contracts with non-defaulting clearing members for an amount equivalent to the contracts held on behalf of the defaulter so as to return the CCP to a balanced net position.

Insurance and Reinsurance Firms

Defining Systemic Importance

The consultation paper notes that most insurance business is unlikely to be systemically important due to its competitive nature and relatively low barriers to entry.  Traditional insurance is considered to be the least risky to the financial system.  In contrast, non-traditional insurance, such as bond insurance, implies a higher degree of risk as a result of its non-standard characteristics that makes it more interconnected with the rest of the financial system.  Non-insurance activities, such as entering into derivatives (particularly as sellers of credit protection) carry the greatest risk.  Although derivatives transactions are generally undertaken through different legal entities, they tend to be connected through a common parent, which sometimes acts as guarantor, meaning that an insurance entity in this position can be both a source or recipient of financial contagion for other entities in its group.

Applying these generalisation to specific areas of the insurance industry, the Commission concludes that short-term funded insurers (which issue commercial paper and reinvest the funds in assets offering a higher return or enter into repos in relation to securities comprised within their investment portfolios) could be systemically risky, but only if the practice is indulged in to an excessive extent and with inadequate liquidity and collateral management.  Similarly, any contagion from the failure of a reinsurer would be limited to its direct customers due to the “comparatively limited” nature of its connections.  However, other types of insurance are considered to have a greater potential to be systemically important due to their high inter-connection with the real economy and the fact that they do not constitute readily substitutable services.  Examples include:

  • compulsory insurance such as motor insurance, employers’ liability insurance, professional indemnity insurance and warranty insurance; and
  • trade credit insurance, by which a business receives protection against losses incurred by late payment or failure to pay by its buyers.

Recovery and resolution of insurance companies

In the case of systemic insurers, it is critical to ensure the continuity of policyholder protection, in relation to which recovery and resolution plans will play an important role.  Triggers to resolution and resolution powers also remain the same as for CCPs/CSDs.  However, with respect to resolution tools, the Commission notes that existing legislation is primarily designed to protect policyholders and is not designed to contain the wider effects associated with the failure of a systemic insurer.  Traditional resolution tools include:

  • run-off;
  • portfolio transfer;
  • insurance guarantee scheme;
  • bridge institution;
  • restructuring of liabilities; and
  • compulsory winding-up.

These tools are generally considered to be effective in conserving the value of an insurer’s assets and protecting policyholders from unnecessary losses.  However, in order to avoid the disruption to financial markets and the real economy associated with the failure of a systemically important insurer it is necessary to have a variety of alternative ways to carry out resolution, such as the ability to separate the systemically important non-traditional activities of the insurer from the traditional activities.

Again, “bail-in” in the context of insurance companies is of most interest.  This would entail the recapitalisation of an insurer by writing down debt and converting claims to equity, either in a bridge institution or in the original firm.  In doing so, it would be possible to ensure the continuation of critical services and provide sufficient time to facilitate the orderly reorganisation or wind-down of the failed insurer.  The consultation paper notes that bail-in could potentially apply to all liabilities of the institution with the exception of:

  • secured liabilities;
  • insurance policies;
  • client assets; and
  • other liabilities such as salaries, taxes or payments due to commercial partners.

Payment Systems And Other Nonbank Financial Institutions/Entities

Two types of entity are identified:

  • Payment Systems (such as TARGET2 or CHAPS), and
  • Payment Institutions (PIs) and Electronic Money Institutions (EMIs).

The Commission concludes that neither merits further consideration in the context of the consultation due to:

  • the vital nature of payment systems, and their specific relationship with and oversight by central banks; and
  • the fact the neither the failure of a PI nor an EMI is likely to represent a significant risk from a systemic point of view.

Other nonbank financial institutions

The consultation paper identifies other financial institutions, including investment funds and certain trading venues, which have not previously been discussed  and which could contribute to the build-up or transmission of systemic risk.  The Commission believes that the resolution of such entities is likely to be very similar to those for banks, investment firms, insurance companies and other entities captured by the consultation.

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