Under the Economic Growth, Regulatory Reform and Consumer Protection Act, depository institutions and their holding companies with less than $10 billion in assets are excluded from the prohibitions of the Volcker Rule. Accordingly, institutions under $10 billion may, so long as consistent with general safety and soundness concerns, engage once again in proprietary trading and in making investments in covered funds.
Neither EGRRCPA nor the proposed rule, however, addresses the impact on an institution when it goes over $10 billion in assets, either as a result of organic growth or via merger. The proposed rule does not even apply the tests on a quarter-end or other reporting period basis, much less an average balance or consecutive quarter requirement. The proposing release notes that they believe that insured depository institutions “regularly monitor their total consolidated assets” for other purposes, and therefore do not believe this ongoing test requirement would impose any new burden.
The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act (EGRRCPA) provided significant regulatory relief for community banks, including broad relief from the Volcker Rule’s prohibition on proprietary trading and investments in covered funds. As previously discussed, Section 203 of EGRRCPA provided an exemption from the Volcker Rule for institutions that are less than $10 billion and whose total trading assets and liabilities are not more than 5% of total consolidated assets. The exemption provides complete relief from the Volcker Rule by exempting such depository institutions from the definition of “banking entity” for purposes of the Volcker Rule.
On December 21, 2018, the financial regulatory agencies invited public comments on a proposal to implement the EGRRCPA changes to the Volcker Rule. The proposed rule provides that an insured depository institution is exempt from the Volcker Rule if “it has, and every company that controls it has, total consolidated assets of $10 billion or less and total trading assets and trading liabilities, on a consolidated basis, that are 5% or less of total consolidated assets.” While the proposed rule is not yet effective, the Federal Reserve has previously confirmed that it would not enforce the Volcker Rule in a manner inconsistent with EGRRCPA, so the proposed rule is effectively already in place.
Based on September 30, 2018 call report data, this change to the Volcker Rule exempted approximately 97.5% of the 5,486 U.S. depository institutions. (The actual number is probably slightly less, as some of those exempted depository institutions are affiliated with larger and/or foreign banks, each of which would remain subject to the Volcker Rule.) Of note, the $10 billion asset threshold is by far the most relevant determinant of the eligible relief. Based on that call report data (which necessarily excludes any trading assets and liabilities held by a parent company), only 0.15% of depository institutions had trading assets equal to at least 5% of their total assets (and only 0.16% of the institutions had trading assets equal to 3% or more of their total assets).
While few community banks ever engaged in proprietary trading before the Volcker Rule, EGRRCPA still provides meaningful relief from the compliance obligations of the Volcker Rule, the risk of inadvertently being deemed to engage in proprietary trading, or the prohibition from investing in covered funds (or the need to ensure that vehicles that were invested in qualified for an exemption from the covered fund definition).
On November 21, 2018, the Federal Reserve, Office of Comptroller of the Currency and the FDIC jointly published a notice of proposed rulemaking (the “NPR”) to provide an alternative capital system for qualifying banking organizations. Specifically, the regulators have proposed a new, alternative, simplified capital regime for qualifying institutions that will deem an institution to be well-capitalized so long as it maintains a leverage ratio of at least 9% and adequately capitalized so long as it maintains a leverage ratio of at least 7.5%.
The NPR seeks to implement the community bank leverage ratio (CBLR) mandated by Section 201 of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act (“EGRRCPA”). EGRRCPA requires the regulatory agencies to develop a CBLR of not less than 8 percent and not more than 10 percent for qualifying community banking organizations, and provides that organizations that meet such CBLR will deemed well capitalized for all purposes. EGRRCPA further provides that a qualifying community banking organization to be a depository institution or depository institution holding company with total consolidated assets of less than $10 billion.
Summary of the NPR
The NPR establishes five criteria for an depository institution or holding company to be deemed a Qualifying Community Banking Organization:
Total consolidated assets of less than $10 billion;
Total off-balance sheet exposures of 25% or less of total consolidated assets;
Total trading assets and trading liabilities of 5% or less of total consolidated assets;
MSAs of 25% or less of CBLR tangible equity; and
Temporary difference DTAs of 25% or less of CBLR tangible equity.
Under the NPR, the numerator of the CBLR would be CBLR tangible equity. CBLR tangible equity would be equal to total equity capital, determined in accordance with Call Report or Form Y-9C instructions, prior to including any minority interests, less (i) accumulated other comprehensive income (AOCI), (ii) all intangible assets (other than MSAs) including goodwill and core deposit intangibles, and (iii) DTA’s arising from net operating loss and tax credit carryforwards.
The CBLR denominator would be average total consolidated assets, calculated in accordance with Call Report or Form Y-9C instructions, less the items deducted from the CBLR numerator, except AOCI. The NPR notes that the calculation is similar to the one used in determining the denominator of the tier 1 leverage ratio.
Under the NPR, a Qualifying Community Banking Organization may elect to use the CBLR framework at any time, so long as it has a CBLR greater than 9% at the time of the election. Under the CBLR framework, the Qualifying Community Banking Organization will be considered well capitalized so long as it has a CBLR greater than 9%. A qualifying depository institution that previously elected to use the CBLR framework but has fallen below 9% will not be required to convert back to the regular capital system. Instead, the following CBLR leves will serve as proxies for the PCA categories:
Adequately Capitalized – CBLR of 7.5% or greater;
Undercapitalized – CBLR of less than 7.5%; and
Significantly Undercapitalized – CBLR of less than 6%.
The framework for Critically Undercapitalized would remain unchanged at a ratio of tangible equity to total assets of 2% or below. Any institution that would be deemed Significantly Undercapitalized under the CBLR framework would be required to promptly provide its appropriate regulators sufficient information to calculate the PCA tangible equity ratio.
As of the end of August 2018, two key provisions of The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (aka the Crapo bill, S.2155, or increasingly, EGRRCPA) have become effective: the increase in the small bank holding company policy statement threshold and the increase in the expanded examination cycle threshold. Before looking at those provisions, I have to acknowledge the fabulous Wall Street Journal story by Ryan Tracy, “Can You Say EGRRCPA? Tongue-Twister Banking Law Confuses Washington.” Personally, I’m now leaning towards “egg-rah-sip-uh.”
On July 6, 2018, the federal banking agencies released an Interagency statement regarding the impact of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act that provided guidance as to which provisions were immediately effective versus which provisions would require further regulatory action. Included in this guidance was confirmation that the banking regulators would immediately implement EGRRCPA’s changes to the Volcker Rule, freeing most institutions with total assets of less than $10 billion from the constraints of the Volcker Rule. The regulators noted that they “will not enforce the final rule implementing section 13 of the BHC Act in a manner inconsistent with the amendments made by EGRRCPA to section 13 of the BHC Act.”
Unfortunately, two of the more significant areas of regulatory relief for community banks, the respective increases in thresholds for the small bank holding company policy statement and the expanded examination cycle were not granted such immediate effectiveness. While EGRRCPA required the Federal Reserve to act on the expansion of the policy statement within 180 days, anyone familiar with the deadlines set forth in the Dodd-Frank Act for regulatory action would not be holding their breath.
Small Bank Holding Company Policy Statement Expansion. On August 30, 2018, the Federal Reserve published an interim final rule implementing the revisions to the small bank holding company policy statement. The Federal Reserve’s small bank holding company policy statement generally exempts such institutions from the requirement to maintain consolidated regulatory capital ratios; instead, regulatory capital ratios only apply at the subsidiary bank level. The small bank holding company policy statement was first implemented in 1980, with a $150 million asset threshold. In 2006, it was increased to $500 million, and in 2015, it was increased to $1 billion. Section 207 of EGRRCPA called for the Federal Reserve to increase the threshold to $3 billion, and the interim final rule implements this change.
The Securities and Exchange Commission amended its definition of “smaller reporting company” (an “SRC”) increasing the public float threshold (cap on portion of shares held by public investors) to $250 million, up from the prior $75 million threshold. Companies with a public float of up to $700 million may also qualify for SRC status under the new rule if their annual revenues are less than $100 million.
Benefits of SRC Status
The less rigorous reporting requirements for SRC’s provide a number of benefits to qualifying companies. The Independent Community Bankers of America estimates that SRC status—thus exemption from the 404(b) reporting requirements—could cut audit fees for qualifying bank holding companies by as much as 50%. Included in the lesser filing requirements for SRCs are the following scaled disclosure accommodations:
Audited historical financial statement filing requirements are reduced to two years (rather than three for larger reporting companies)
Less rigorous disclosure for annual and quarterly reports, proxy statements and registration statements
Two years of income statements (rather than three)
Two years of changes in stockholders’ equity (rather than three)
Reduced compensation disclosures
No stock performance graph required
Not required to make quantitative and qualitative disclosures about market risk
Methods of Calculation
A company’s public float, the total market value of the company’s outstanding common stock (voting and non-voting) held by non-affiliates or non-insiders, is the amount reflected on the first page of the company’s 10-K as the “aggregate market value of the common stock held by nonaffiliates of the registrant.” The public float is measured as of June 30th each year.
To calculate “annual revenues” for the $100 million SRC limit, a financial institution must calculate its gross revenues earned from traditional banking activities.
+ non-interest income
– gains and losses on securities
= annual revenues
The calculation of annual revenues is from the most recent 12 months for which audited financials are available. We have no reason to believe based on the issuance of this new rule that the SEC will change the calculation of annual revenues for financial institutions.
On March 14, 2018, the Senate passed, 67-31, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, or S. 2155. While it may lack a catchy name, its substance is of potentially great importance to community banks.
The following summary focuses on the impact of the bill for depository institutions with less than $10 billion in consolidated assets. The bill would also have some significant impacts on larger institutions, which could, in turn, affect smaller banks… either as a result of competition or, perhaps more likely, through a re-ignition of larger bank merger and acquisition activity. However, we thought it was useful to focus on the over 5,000 banks in the United States that have less than $10 billion in assets.
Community Bank Leverage Ratio
Section 201 of the bill requires the federal banking regulators to promulgate new regulations which would provide a “community bank leverage ratio” for depository institutions with consolidated assets of less than $10 billion.
The bill calls for the regulators to adopt a threshold for the community bank leverage ratio of between 8% and 10%. Institutions under $10 billion in assets that meet such community bank leverage ratio will automatically be deemed to be well-capitalized. However, the bill does provide that the regulators will retain the flexibility to determine that a depository institution (or class of depository institutions) may not qualify for the “community bank leverage ratio” test based on the institution’s risk profile.
The bill provides that the community bank leverage ratio will be calculated based on the ratio of the institution’s tangible equity capital divided by the average total consolidated assets. For institutions meeting this community bank leverage ratio, risk-weighting analysis and compliance would become irrelevant from a capital compliance perspective.
Volcker Rule Relief
Section 203 of the bill provides an exemption from the Volcker Rule for institutions that are less than $10 billion and whose total trading assets and liabilities are not more than 5% of total consolidated assets. The exemption provides complete relief from the Volcker Rule by exempting such depository institutions from the definition of “banking entity” for purposes of the Volcker Rule.
Accordingly, depository institutions with less than $10 billion in assets (unless they have significant trading assets and liabilities) will not be subject to either the proprietary trading or covered fund prohibitions of the Volcker Rule.
While few such institutions historically undertook proprietary trading, the relief from the compliance burdens is still a welcome one. It will also re-open the ability depository institutions (and their holding companies) to invest in private equity funds, including fintech funds. While such investments would still need to be confirmed to be permissible investments under the chartering authority of the institution (or done at a holding company level), these types of investments can be financially and strategically attractive.
Expansion of Small Bank Holding Company Policy Statement
Section 207 of the bill calls upon the federal banking regulators to, within 180 days of passage, raise the asset threshold under the Small Bank Holding Company Policy Statement from $1 billion to $3 billion.
Institutions qualifying for treatment under the Policy Statement are not subject to consolidated capital requirements at the holding company level; instead, regulatory capital ratios only apply at the subsidiary bank level. This rule allows small bank holding companies to use non-equity funding, such as holding company loans or subordinated debt, to finance growth.
Small bank holding companies can also consider the use of leverage to fund share repurchases and otherwise provide liquidity to shareholders to satisfy shareholder needs and remain independent. One of the biggest drivers of sales of our clients is a lack of liquidity to offer shareholders who may want to make a different investment choice. Through an increased ability to add leverage, affected companies can consider passing this increased liquidity to shareholders through share repurchases or increased dividends.
Of course, each board should consider its practical ability to deploy the additional funding generated from taking on leverage, as interest costs can drain profitability if the proceeds from the debt are not deployed in a profitable manner. However, the ability to generate the same income at the bank level with a lower capital base at the holding company level should prove favorable even without additional growth. This expansion of the small bank holding company policy statement would significantly increase the ability of community banks to obtain significant efficiencies of scale while still providing enhanced returns to its equity holders.
Institutions engaged in significant nonbanking activities, that conduct significant off-balance sheet activities, or have a material amount of debt or equity securities outstanding that are registered with the SEC would remain ineligible for treatment under the Policy Statement, and the regulators would be able to exclude any institution for supervisory purposes.
Section 214 of the bill would specify that federal banking regulators may not impose higher capital standards on High Volatility Commercial Real Estate (HVCRE) exposures unless they are for acquisition, development or construction (ADC), and it clarifies what constitutes ADC status. The HVCRE ADC treatment would not apply to one-to-four-family residences, agricultural land, community development investments or existing income-producing real estate secured by a mortgage, or to any loans made prior to Jan. 1, 2015.
We have heard, read and seen (and internally had) some confusion regarding the joint proposed rulemaking regarding the potential simplification of the capital rules as they relate to Mortgage Servicing Assets (MSAs) and certain Deferred Tax Assets (DTAs).
In addition to simply being complicated regulations, the regulators also have two proposed rulemakings outstanding related to these items. In August 2017, the banking regulators jointly sought public comment on proposed rules (the “Transition NPR“) that proposed to extend the treatment of MSAs and certain DTAs based on the 2017 transition period. Then, in September 2017, the banking regulators jointly sought comment on proposed rules (the “Simplification NPR“) that proposed to alter the limitations on treatment of MSAs and certain DTAs (and also addressed High Volatility Commercial Real Estate or HVCRE loans).
The Simplification NPR also addressed the interplay of the Simplification NPR and the Transition NPR. The Simplification NPR provided that the Transition NPR, if finalized, would only remain effective until such time as the Simplification NPR became effective. Accordingly, the Simplification NPR, if adopted, will ultimately control, with no transition periods for MSAs and certain DTAs following January 1, 2018.
Net Operating Loss DTAs
Importantly, neither the Transition NPR nor the Simplification NPR have any affect on the Basel III capital treatment net operating loss (NOL) DTAs. DTAs that arise from NOL and tax credit carryforwards net of any related valuation allowances and net of deferred tax liabilities must be deducted from common equity tier 1 capital. Through the end of 2017, the deduction for NOL DTAs are apportioned between common equity tier 1 capital and tier 1 capital. In 2017, 80% of the NOL DTA is deducted directly from common equity tier 1 capital, while the remaining 20% is separately deducted from additional tier 1 capital. Starting in 2018, 100% of the NOL DTA will be deducted from common equity tier 1 capital.
The end of the transition period will have the effect of lowering the common equity tier 1 capital ratio of all institutions with NOL DTAs, although the tier 1 capital and leverage ratios should remain unchanged. This impact is entirely unaffected by the adoption (or non-adoption) of the Transition NPR and/or Simplification NPR.
Similarly, other aspects of NOL DTAs are unaffected by the proposed rules. Specifically, (i) GAAP still controls the appropriateness of valuation allowances in connection with the DTA, (ii) tax laws still control the length of time over which DTAs can be carried forward, and (iii) Section 382 of the Internal Revenue Code still controls the limitation (and potential loss) of DTAs upon a change in control of the taxpayer.
Temporary Difference DTAs
Unlike Net Operating Loss DTAs, DTAs arising from temporary differences between GAAP and tax accounting, such as those associated with an allowance for loan losses and other real estate write-downs, can be included in common equity tier 1 capital, subject to certain restrictions. To the extent that such DTAs could be realized through NOL carryback if all those temporary differences were deemed to have been reversed, such DTAs are includable in their entirety in common equity tier 1 capital. Essentially, to the extent the temporary difference DTAs could be realized by carrying back against taxes already paid, then such DTAs are fully includable in capital. Carryback rules vary by jurisdiction; while federal law generally permits a bank to carry back NOLs two years, many states do not allow carrybacks.
It can be a challenge, when economic times are relatively good, to take time away from thinking about new opportunities to discuss topics like D&O insurance. Even though I am biased, I’ll admit that, in those times, discussing the risks of potential liability and how to insure those risks can feel both a pretty unpleasant and a pretty remote thing to be discussing. However, like all risk-related issues, it is precisely in those times when business is going well that a little bit of counter-cyclical thinking and attention can do the most good over the long haul.
As you approach your next D&O policy renewal – and particularly in the 30-60 days prior to the expiration of your current policy, there are a few things that you may want to consider.
Multi-year endorsements – what’s the catch?
In good times, many insurers will offer packages styled as multi-year policies, usually touted as an option that allows for some premium savings and perhaps a reduced administrative burden. However, as with all things, these advantages may come with a catch.
Many multi-year endorsements will reserve to the insurer the discretion to assess additional premium on an annual basis within the multi-year period if the risk profile of the bank changes in a material way. So premium savings may not ultimately be realized, depending on the facts.
Beyond this, some multi-year endorsements will actually impose additional requirements on the insured to provide notice of events that could trigger the carrier’s repricing rights or other conditions. Those obligations may be triggered when those events occur on an intra-period basis, which can set up a potential foot-fault for an organization that does not keep those requirements front of mind (which can be a practical challenge, as if those events are happening, it is likely that there are a number of issues competing for management and the board’s attention).
Companies looking at multi-year endorsements should make sure they understand fully the terms on which the multi-year option is being provided and should have counsel or an independent broker review the specific language of the proposed multi-year endorsement itself on their behalf. In addition, while it may be tempting to use a multi-year endorsement to try to extend the renewal horizon and to try to reduce the administrative burden that comes with the renewal process, doing so may also reduce your ability to negotiate appropriate enhancements to your policy terms over the multi-year period.
Multi-year policies may be the right fit for your institution, but they should not be viewed as a one size fits all solution. Before heading down that road, ask yourself how much is being saved and how real those savings actually are and, perhaps just as importantly, whether avoiding a broader discussion of your coverage strategy on at least an annual basis is a good thing or not.
What about the bank has changed?
Times of economic expansion often bring with them opportunities to explore new lines of business. In addition, substantial recent technological innovations in the financial services industries and increasing consumer demands for technological solutions have meant that not only are new market opportunities being explored but that they are being explored in new ways. And if that isn’t enough, there is always the ever-changing regulatory and compliance landscape to contend with.
All of these trends – as well as your decisions of where and how your institution will choose to participate (or not to participate) in them – bring with them new and different risks. To the extent that your bank has expanded its offerings, changed its footprint or portfolio mix, or otherwise changed its policies or ways of doing business, you should think about how those changes may impact your insurance needs. It can be easy, particularly when you have a long relationship with an incumbent carrier, for the renewal process to become somewhat rote.
The Financial CHOICE Act introduced in the House this spring has largely garnered attention because of its rollback of Dodd-Frank, but the bill would also significantly change the rules governing shareholder resolutions for public companies. Currently, the restrictions are relatively modest, requiring that investors have at least $2,000 in stock or one percent of the stock at a company in order to be eligible to file resolutions. In contrast, the CHOICE Act would limit eligibility for proposing shareholder resolutions to investors that have held at least one percent of the company’s stock for a minimum of three years. This change would drastically limit who can file resolutions, given that one percent of the shares of larger companies could translate to millions or billions of dollars.
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