US Fed plans to tighten the leash on foreign banks

US Fed

The U.S. Federal Reserve on Friday proposed to tighten the leash on foreign banks to protect taxpayers from having to bail them out, in what banks said could lead to a pullback from U.S. markets.

The rules will likely make it more expensive for foreign banks to operate in America, and attorneys who work with foreign banks said that they needed to rethink whether they can maintain their current operations.

The plan would force foreign banks to group all their subsidiaries under a holding company, subject to the same capital standards as U.S. holding companies. The biggest banks will also need to hold liquidity buffers.

"The proposal would not disadvantage foreign banking organizations relative to domestic U.S. banking firms, but rather it seeks to maintain a level playing field," Fed Governor Jeremy Stein said at a board meeting.

Banks with fewer than $10 billion in U.S. assets would not need to comply with the new rules, the Fed said. The proposal was previewed in some detail by Fed Governor Daniel Tarullo last month, who said regulators remained wary of the risks posed by big banks that do business globally, and are prepared to tighten the rules as a precaution.

The Fed's Board of Governors voted unanimously to release the proposal for public comment.

The Fed said that while extra capital and liquidity buffers could "incrementally" boost costs, it would also make banks more stable. But international banks complained.

"The Fed's approach is...overly broad and could prompt foreign banks to pull back from the U.S. market, hurting our economy and financial markets," the Institute of International Bankers said in a statement.

The United States has traditionally relied on foreign supervisors to watch overseas banks, allowing them to hold less capital than their domestic counterparts.

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