Counterparties: Too Global To Fail
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The thing about Too Big to Fail financial firms is that they tend to be Too Big to Fail in several countries at once. Hence, the “shared strategy” laid out in a new joint paper from of the FDIC and the Bank of England that aims to protect taxpayers from paying for the rescue of gigantic multinational corporations.
Even if it’s just a set of principles, any sort of action on cross-border resolution has been a long time coming. As Simon Johnson has pointed out, the IMF has been pushing for at least a decade for some method of unwinding international financial firms.
The new strategy, summarized in this FT op-ed, has some clear improvements over crisis-era handling of TBTF firms. The company’s home regulator would take control of the firm (lucky them), shareholders and unsecured creditors would be forced to take losses (slow clap), and senior management would be removed (rousing applause). Liquidity would be parceled out by regulators to newly spun-off divisions and any taxpayer losses could be recovered from the financial sector — though it’s not quite clear how.
The FDIC-BoE approach — like this 2010 IMF proposal — also calls for something like a Pause button for derivatives contracts; a “stay of termination rights” would temporarily prevent counterparties from being paid out after a TBTF firm fails.
Regulators are taking another welcome step to protect taxpayers from TBTF: enforcing existing regulations on foreign companies. Shahien Nasiripour and Brooke Masters pick up on a recent speech by the Fed’s Daniel Tarullo which suggests regulators may soon force foreign subsidiaries to actually obey local capital requirements. The idea is to keep banks’ subsidiaries from posing a risk to domestic taxpayers. Larry Fink, the CEO of BlackRock, apparently isn’t happy about this:
“If that is the new strategy among regulators, it really throws into question this whole globalisation of these firms,” he said at a conference last week. “It also means each country for themselves. I wouldn’t call it a trade war, but I would certainly call it a high level of protectionism.”
None of this is going to be easy, especially if more than one TBTF firm fails at once. As one former Fed regulator said last year: “Citibank is a $1.8 trillion company, in 171 countries with 550 clearance and settlement systems”. Try resolving that in the middle of a crisis. — Ryan McCarthy
On to today’s links: