FMLC Provides Additional Commentary on RRD

On 25 October 2013, the Financial Markets Law Committee (FMLC) published a second discussion document on the EU Commission’s General Approach to the proposed Recovery and Resolution Directive (RRD).

The document is generally supportive of the changes made within the General Approach, but highlights a few remaining areas of concern with respect to legal uncertainty, including those set out below:

  • Bail-in: The RRD does not provide a set of principles to guide a resolution authority’s choice as to whether to convert debt to equity or whether to write-down debt.  In addition, contractual bail-in provisions may not operate in the same way as statutory bail-in provisions;
  • Valuation:  It is unclear on what basis the valuation (which must be independent) is to be carried out, notwithstanding that Article 30 of the RRD provides that the valuation should be fair and realistic.  This drafting ambiguity gives rise to legal uncertainty as to the status of a resolution action which is taken when a valuation at the proscribed standard has not been carried out, owing to practical difficulty or impossibility; and
  • General Resolution Powers:  Articles 56(1)(h) and 56(1)(l) of the RRD give a resolution authority the power to cancel or amend the terms of “debt instruments”.  However, this definition is wider than that of “capital instruments” – the term used to describe the instruments that are eligible to be ‘bailed-in’.
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RRP for Non-Banks Moved Forward

On 22 October 2013, the EU Parliament updated it procedural file on the recovery and resolution framework for non-bank institutions.  The indicative first or single reading plenary session scheduled for 13 January 2014 has been moved forward to 9 December 2013.

DB Experience Highlights RRP Challenge

Risk Magazine has published an article in which Deutsche Bank highlights the issues it has experienced in complying with global recovery and resolution plan (RRP) requirements.

This is an all too common story.  The lack of guidance from regulators, absence of globally coordinated regulatory requirements and the move towards subsidiarisation combine to pose a significant challenge to firms which are subject to RRP rules.  From experience, the only real solution lies in the creation of a robust yet flexible data architecture, capable of serving up only that view of information which is necessary for the particular audience and with the capacity to adapt to meet future regulatory developments.

SPE and MPE – which are you?

Introduction

On 14 October, the Bank of England published a speech given by Paul Tucker, Deputy Governor Financial Stability, at the Institute of International Finance 2013 Annual Membership meeting on 12 October 2013 on the subject of ‘too big to fail’.

Mr Tucker made five general points:

  1. The US authorities could resolve most US SIFIs right now on a ‘top-down’ basis pursuant to the powers granted under Title II of the Dodd Frank Act;
  2. Single Point of Entry (SPE) versus Multiple Point of Entry (MPE) may be the most important innovation in banking policy in decades;
  3. There is no such thing as a “bail-in bond”.  Bail in is a resolution tool.  All creditors can face having to absorb losses.  What matters is the creditor hierarchy;
  4. Some impediments to smooth cross-border resolution need to be removed; and
  5. The resolution agenda is not just about banks and dealers.  It is about central counterparties too, for example.

Reorganisation

Mr Tucker noted that Europe is not far behind the US in its enactment of resolution powers.  However, of more interest to the industry will be his belief that most banking groups will have to undergo some kind of reorganisation, irrespective of the camp into which they fall.  SPE groups will need to establish holding companies from which loss-absorbing bonds can be issued.  In addition, key subsidiaries will need to issue debt to their holding companies that can be written down in times of distress.  MPE groups will need to do more to organise themselves into well-defined regional and functional subgroups.  In addition common services, such as IT will need to be provided by stand-alone entities that can survive the break-up of an MPE group.  Capital requirements for regional subsidiaries forming part of an MPE group may also be higher due to the absence of a parent/holding company that can act as a source of strength through a resolution process.

Bail-in

On the subject to bail-in, creditors of SPE groups will be interested to read Mr Tucker’s comments about how, within the context of a top-down resolution, bonds issued by a holding company will absorb losses before debt issued by an operating subsidiary.  In effect, the holding company’s creditors are structurally subordinated to the operating company’s creditors.

Impediments to Resolution

On the subject to impediments to cross-border resolution, Mr Tucker noted that, in order to provide clarity on its previous ‘in principle’ commitment, the Bank of England needs to set down detailed conditions under which it would step aside and allow US authorities to resolve the UK subsidiaries of a US banking group.  In turn, other resolution authorities, and particularly the US, need to make the same ‘in principle’ commitment as the Bank of England.

Extension of the Resolution Regime

Finally, on the subject of the resolution agenda, Mr Tucker confirmed that CCPs are the most important example of where resolution regimes need to apply.  However, he did not rule out resolution regimes being extended to cover shadow banking, funds and SPVs.

HM Treasury Publishes Draft Annex to SRR Code of Practice

Introduction

On 8 October 2013, HM Treasury published a draft annex on the new bail-in option to the Special Resolution Regime (SRR). The bail-in tool is being introduced through amendments to the Banking Act 2009 by the Banking Reform Bill 2013 for the purpose of offering a new stabilisation option to the Bank of England as lead resolution authority. It will be available to failing banks and investment firms, with necessary modifications to building societies via secondary legislation and under specified conditions to banking group companies.

The draft annex to the Code of Practice supports the legal framework for the SRR and provides guidance as to when and how the bail-in tool may be deployed by authorities in practice.

A summary of the key points include:

General and Specific Conditions for Use of SRR Tools (Section 7)

The conditions for use of the bail-in option are identical to those for the stabilisation options set out in the existing Code :

  • the regulator must determine that the institution is failing or likely to fail;
  • it is not reasonably likely that action will be taken by or in respect of the bank to avoid its failure; and
  • the Bank of England is satisfied that exercising the bail-in power is necessary having regard to the public interest.

When choosing between the original resolution tools, the Bank of England will consider the relative merits of the stabilisation options and the bank insolvency procedure given the circumstances in addition to general considerations . The Bank of England may also choose resolution by way of bail-in for situations where the use of another stabilisation power would threaten financial stability or confidence in the banking systems.

Use of the Bail-in Powers (Section 8)

The bail-in option gives the Bank of England the power to cancel or modify the terms of any contract in a resolution scenario for the purposes of reducing or deferring a liability of the bank (“special bail-in provision”). A conversion power also exists that allows for liabilities to be converted into different forms. Certain liabilities are excluded from the scope of the power to make special bail-in provision including:

  • deposits covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) or an equivalent overseas scheme;
  • liabilities to the extent they are secured;
  • client assets, including client money;
  • liabilities with an original maturity of less than seven days which are owed to a credit institution or investment firm (save in relation to credit institutions or investment firms which are banking group companies in relation to the bank);
  • liabilities arising from participation in a designated settlement system and owed to such systems, or to operators or participants in such systems;
  • liabilities owed to central counterparties recognised by the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) in accordance with Article 25 of Regulation (EU) 648/2012;
  • liabilities to employees or former employees in relation to accrued salary or other remuneration (with the exception of variable remuneration);
  • liabilities owed to employees or former employees in relation to rights under a pension scheme (with the exception of discretionary benefits); and
  • liabilities to a creditor arising from the provision of goods or services (other than financial services) that are critical to the daily functioning of the bank’s operations (with the exception of creditors that are companies which are banking group companies in relation to the bank).

Prior to taking resolution action or converting liabilities, resolution authorities are expected to carry out a valuation of the assets and liabilities of the institution as is reasonably practicable.

The UK has chosen to exercise the discretion granted to it under the Recovery and Resolution Directive and has included derivatives in the list of liabilities which can be bailed-in. Specific power to make special bail-in provision to derivatives and similar financial transactions can be found in Sections 8.14 – 8.17 of the Annex. The Bank of England will, where appropriate, exercise its power to close-out contracts before they are bailed in with any applicable close-out netting being taken into account. If a liability is owed, it will be excluded from bail-in so far as it is secured and compensation arrangements will follow the “no creditor worse off” principle. This ensures that no person is worse off as a result of the application of the bail-in option than they would have been had the bank gone into insolvency.

Banking Reform Bill Bulks Up

H.M. Treasury yesterday published 86 proposed amendments to the Banking Reform Bill. The bill is due to enter its committee stage in the House of Lords on the 8th October 2013. The proposed amendments were widely-flagged and broadly mirror the 11th March 2013 recommendations of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards.  Highlights are as follows:

  • Payments: the introduction of a wholly new and distinct payment systems regulator, the intention being to stimulate competition by facilitating access to payment systems for new market participants, as well as decreasing the costs of account portability. A special administration regime to deal with cases where a key element in a payment fails or is likely to.
  • Misconduct: an extension of the FSMA approved persons regime. If passed, the amendments will allow the regulators to: make the approval subject to conditions or time-limits, extend time limits for sanctions against individuals, impose “banking standards rules” on all employees , and to hold senior managers responsible for regulatory breaches in areas which they control. PCBS chairman Andrew Tyrie, (perhaps confusing Ford Open Prison with Guantanamo), had previously advocated putting “guilty bankers in bright orange jump suits”; as widely expected, the proposals introduce criminal sanctions for reckless misconduct in the management of a bank.
  • Electrified ring-fence:  proposed new powers to formalise and streamline the “electrification” power introduced at the Commons report stage. The electricity in the ring-fence is the regulator’s power to compel separation of a banking group which breaches the boundary between retail and investment banking. The effect of the new powers is to make the ring-fence into a “variable-voltage” device. Under the proposal, the regulator will:
  1. issue a preliminary notice, the affected party will have a minimum of  14 days to reply and 3 months to make necessary changes to its behaviour/structure
  2.  failing this and with the consent of the Treasury, a warning notice will then be issued, itself triggering a minimum of 14 days for representations by the affected party
  3. a decision notice is then issued, which may be appealed before a Tribunal
  4.   a final notice is issued which set s a dead line by which a bank must separate its activities

The whole process will take approximately 14 months and the various notices will be issued in accordance with general FSMA principles.

Bail-in:  the introduction of a bail-tool as initially mandated by the European BRRD and recommended by the domestic ICB and PCBS. The Banking Act of 2009 will be amended to include a “stabilisation option” (bail-in), covering banks and investment firms and to be applied by the bank of England as lead resolution authority.  The conditions for its use are identical to those of the Special Resolution Regime:

  1. the regulator must determine that the bank is failing or is likely to fail
  2. it is not likely that any other action can avoid the failure
  3. The BoE determines that application of the bail-in power is in the public interest

The bail-in option includes the right to modify existing contracts for the purpose of mitigating the liabilities of a bank under resolution. There are a number of liabilities which will be excluded from the provision: client money, FSCS protected deposits, employee pension schemes, payment system liabilities, debts to a creditor who is critical to the bank’s daily functioning etc.

In short- the electric ring-fence is reconnected to the mains and bail-in is set to become a reality. These and other less fundamental proposed amendments represent a significant extension of regulatory powers. It remains to be seen if they will be rigorously and consistently applied to their full extent.

RRD Pushed Back Yet Again

On 20 September 2013, the EU Parliament updated its procedure file on the Recovery and Resolution Directive (RRD).  It seems that the RRD proposal will now be considered at the Parliament’s plenary session scheduled for 3 to 6 February 2014, rather than the session scheduled for 18 to 21 November 2013, as was previously the case.