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Public Comments Due Soon on Proposed Community Bank Leverage Ratio Rules

The public comment period for the banking agencies’ capital simplification rules for qualifying community banking organizations (i.e. the Community Bank Leverage Ratio proposal) are due on Tuesday, April 9th.

As previously discussed, 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%. While initially proposed last November, publication in the Federal Register was delayed until February of this year. As a result the comment period for the rule ends on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. Comments can be submitted online through Regulations.gov.

Through the publication of this blog post, the primary comments online appear to be the appropriate threshold for the new Community Bank Leverage Ratio. As background, EGRRCPA, the statutory basis for the reforms, obligates the regulators to apply a threshold of between 8% and 10%, and the regulators proposed 9%. Most of the submitted comments, including several from community bankers, comments from the Kansas Bankers Association and the Independent Bankers Association of Texas argue for a lower 8% ratio. Conversely, the Mercatus Center has submitted a comment supporting a 10% ratio.

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Roleplaying as Chief Strategy Officers

On January 25th, Jonathan and I returned to the studio to record the latest podcast for The Bank Account. We’re trying to live up to our commitment to podcast more often in 2019 then we did in 2018; nothing like setting a low bar!

We first briefly discuss the latest IRS regulations for the taxation of Subchapter S banks and the reactions that we’ve seen from our clients on tax reform. Generalization appears virtually impossible, as we’ve seen reactions ranging from terminating Subchapter S elections, doing transactions and forgoing Subchapter S elections, sticking with the status quo, and, as Jonathan puts it, “Sub S or Die.”

We then turn to a hypothetical scenario that both Jonathan and I think about from time to time; what if we decided to cease providing legal services and instead attempted to become bank officers. What would our first steps be as a new Chief Strategy Officer of a hypothetical depository institution. Jonathan suggests beginning with the question of whether the institution is a true “community bank,” with a provocative definition for the term. Per Jonathan, a “community bank” is one whose existence is self-justified, as an irreplaceable benefit to the community it serves. (Jonathan than proceeds with an approach that even he admits might be better suited for a visual presentation.)

I suggest instead that the first question should be what is expected/desired by the institution’s shareholders. Depending on the shareholder base and their expectations for the institution, different strategic approaches are called for.

Please click to subscribe to the feed on iTunes, Android, Email or MyCast. It is also now available in the iTunes and Google Play searchable podcast directories.

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Volcker Rule Impact When Crossing $10 Billion

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.

On December 21, 2018, the federal regulatory agencies proposed rules implementing this EGRRCPA provision. However, as previously noted, even pending finalization of these regulations, the regulatory agencies have also noted that they will not enforce the Volcker Rule in a manner inconsistent with EGRRCPA.

EGRRCPA, and the proposed rule, effect the exclusion of smaller institutions from the Volcker Rule by modifying the scope of the term “banking entity” for purposes of the Volcker Rule. The proposed rule excludes from being a “banking entity” any institution that has (i) $10 billion or less in assets and (ii) trading assets of 5% or less.

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.

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Did Congress Release Nearly All Banks from the Volcker Rule?

Yes.  

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).

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2018 Bank M&A Statistics

2018 Bank M&A Statistics

January 7, 2019

Authored by: Robert Klingler

2018 was only the fourth most active year over the last five years in terms of the number of insured institutions that agreed to sell. However, perspective is also important, as 2018 was also the fourth most active year over the last ten years, and the most active if measured as a percentage of institutions available to sell. 2018’s 262 bank and thrift deals ended up slightly lower than 2017’s 267 transactions. Based on the 6,670 insured banks and thrifts outstanding as the beginning of the year, 4.6% exited through a business combination.

Until and unless we see significantly more de novo activities, it seems unlikely that we will return to 300 transactions in any given year, as we last saw in 2014.  However, on an annualized basis, the second quarter of 201 saw 336 transactions!  Similarly, looking at a four quarter rolling total, we had more than 280 deals announced both between Q3 ’17 and Q2 ’18 and between Q4 ’17 and Q3 ’18. Each institution’s decision to sell remains subject to a number of unique considerations, but, all else equal, we would expect the percentage of institutions selling in any given year would likely decline rather than increase going forward.

We are strong proponents of the proposition that “banks are sold, not bought.”  The fact that there remain a number of institutions looking to grow by completing acquisitions is thus unlikely to fundamentally change the number of transactions in any particular year.  Conversely, the age and stage of banks in the industry (and that of their management teams) remains a critical component of many sale determinations.  As we continue to see a shrinking universe of financial institutions, it stands to reason that we will also continue to see a decline in the number of institutions that decide a sale is the right strategic decision in any particular year.

2018 reflected, consistent with recent trends – although perhaps not yet reflecting the year-end stock declines – a continued increase in the average price-to-book multiple paid in bank transactions.  While the average price-to-book multiple in 2014, 2015 and 2016 were each approximately 1.3 times book, average pricing in 2017 and 2018 has risen to 1.6x book, with 2018 slightly higher than 2017.  This level of pricing likely continues to serve as a negative deterrent to de novo formation, as it’s much easier to build a broadly attractive investment model if it includes a sale for 3x book in 5 years (or less). 

2018 marks the seventh straight year with over 240 transactions announced during the year, and the fifth straight year in which more than 4% of the institutions at the beginning of the year sold. Based on these trends, and without attempting to identify how the financial sector’s market decline will impact M&A activity, this would point to between 217 and 250 deals to be announced in 2018.

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A Holiday Buffet of Banking News

A Holiday Buffet of Banking News

December 28, 2018

Authored by: Robert Klingler

On December 27th, Jonathan and I returned to the studio to record the latest podcast for The Bank Account. We haven’t discussed New Year’s Resolutions, but we’ll try to return to a little more normalcy in 2019!

For those that have missing our voices, (a) please seek help… that’s not normal and (b) we were also recently guests on the ABA Banking Journal Podcast. In a lively conversation with Evan Sparks and Shaun Kern, Jonathan and I discussed our 2019 M&A Outlook for the ABA Banking Journal. For those of you who have missed that podcast (or article), I encourage you to listen/read before listening to this podcast, as we follow-up on some of these themes.

Our first substantive conversation on this podcast is a look at some of the transactions announced in the Metro Atlanta market in 2018. With State Bank’s merger with Cadence, Fidelity Bank with Ameris Bank, and National Commerce with CenterState, the Atlanta banking market, and particularly the M&A market, will look radically different in 2019 and beyond.

Following the M&A discussion, our attention turned to the newly proposed Community Bank Leverage Ratio. While it is solely a proposed rule and, if adopted in its current structure, will be an entirely optional framework for banks under $10 billion in assets, it also provides the potential for significant regulatory relief for those institutions that can take advantage of the capital (particularly risk-based) relief.

Please click to subscribe to the feed on iTunes, Android, Email or MyCast. It is also now available in the iTunes and Google Play searchable podcast directories.

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Regulators Propose Community Bank Leverage Ratio Framework

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.

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10 Years of BankBCLP.com

10 Years of BankBCLP.com

October 29, 2018

Authored by: Robert Klingler

A little over 10 years ago, at the wise encouragement of Walt Moeling, we launched this blog.  From day one, the response from clients, referral sources, regulators and competitors has been amazing.

All in, we’ve published over 1,000 blog posts, authored by almost 100 different attorneys with the firm.  From BankPogo.com to BankBryanCave.com to BankBCLP.com, the site has evolved with the evolution of the firm, but has always been focused on providing usable advice to financial institutions across the country.

I’m thrilled with what we were able to build, but also refuse to just rest on our past accomplishments.  We are always on the lookout for areas of interest to our client, where we can partner with the financial institution industry to create value for all.  I think we all hope that such assistance will never again involve assistance with government investments in our depository institutions, but if it does, we look forward to building upon the expertise gained in the great recession.

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10 Year Anniversary of the TARP Capital Purchase Program

Ten years ago, on October 13, 2008, the U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson effectively locked the CEO’s of the nine largest banks in the United States in a conference room and demanded that they accept an investment from the U.S. Government. Although we had front row seats for much of the activity over the ensuing years, reading the New York Times summary of that meeting from the following day still provides a sense of just how shocking all of this was.

While the U.S. Treasury simultaneously announced its intention to also provide the possibility of investments in other banks, it was a long wait for details, particularly for privately held and Subchapter S Banks.  Ultimately, over the course of the next 15 months, the U.S. Treasury invested $199 billion in 707 financial institutions across 48 states.  As of October 1, 2018, the Treasury has received over $226 billion back in dividends, repayments, auction proceeds, and warrant repurchases.

Of the $199 billion in investments in 707 institutions, as of October 1, 2018, only three investments, reflecting $24 million in original investments, remain in Treasury’s portfolio.  264 institutions repaid in full and another 165 refinanced into other government programs.  (The SBLF and CDFI funds were similar to the TARP CPP program, but were ultimately done under different congressional mandates.  While not necessarily representative of an ultimate cash return on the Treasury’s investment, each of these funds has also provided a strong return to the Treasury.)

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10 Years of Troubled Asset Relief Program

10 Years ago today, on October 3, 2008, President George W. Bush signed the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, creating the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and authorizing the expenditure of up to $700 billion.  Pursuant to its obligations under TARP, the Treasury still publishes regular reports on its investments and activities thereunder.  The Treasury has also published a TARP Tracker that provides an interactive and chronological history of TARP.

The various components of TARP were not developed (and then further streamlined) over the next year or so, but the 10-year anniversary of the overall program seems like an appropriate time to look at the overall results of the program.  (In fact, the very thought that TARP would become primarily a program of investments in banks 10 years ago would probably have been laughed at… everyone felt it was going to focus on purchasing toxic assets.)  Over the next several months, we’ll periodically look back on the developments (with the benefit of hindsight), including looking at the launch of this blog.

While $700 billion was initially authorized, the authorization was subsequently reduced to $450 billion.  Based on the latest Monthly Update published by Treasury, just over $440 billion was disbursed and only $70 million remains outstanding today.  Overall, the U.S. Treasury has received just over $443 billion in cash back as a result of its expenditures under TARP.

While overall TARP was actually profitable for the U.S. Treasury, when you break down TARP into categories of programs, one can see that the bank investment component (which is generally thought to be the most controversial aspect) was actually the most profitable.

Looking specifically at the various bank investment programs, the government invested a total of $245.1 billion.  Of that investment, it did recognize write-offs and realized losses of over $5.2 billion.  However, it also recognized over $35.7 billion in income (primarily dividends and profits on sold investments), resulting in a total cash return of $275.5 billion on its $245.1 billion investment.

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