By Huw Jones
LONDON – The European Union published draft laws on Wednesday to “faithfully” implement the final batch of tougher global bank capital rules from 2025, two years later than agreed internationally.
Following the initial batch of rules, banks in Europe hold roughly triple the amount of capital that they did in the run up to the 2007-09 global financial crisis that saw governments bail out collapsing lenders.
Brussels says its proposals would modestly increase capital requirements by less than 9% on average by 2030, but banks argue the hit will be bigger in practice and will make it harder for them to help the economy recover from COVID-19.
The European Parliament and EU states have the final say on the European Commission’s proposals for transposing the ‘Basel III’ global bank capital accord, with haggling and tweaks likely.
“We are faithfully implementing the agreement on Basel III while taking into account some European specificities, and ensuring it does not lead to a significant overall increase in capital requirements,” European Commission Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis told reporters.
The EU’s executive European Commission is proposing to start rolling out the changes from January 2025. The Basel Committee of global banking regulators, which wrote the rules, agreed last year to a 12-month delay to 2023 due to COVID-19.
Dombrovskis said a further delay was “realistic” given the time banks needed to prepare internal systems and finance recovery from COVID-19, with the EU still ahead of Britain and the United States in publishing proposals.
The Bank of England and commercial banks have called for global alignment on timing.
“We welcome the Commission’s intention to extend the implementation date for the proposal until 1 January 2025 and strongly recommend that this is globally agreed on to ensure the simultaneous adoption of all proposals,” said Michael Lever, head of prudential regulation at European banking lobby AFME.
Privately, banks worry that despite a delay, investors will want lenders to comply sooner rather than later.
Bigger banks will be allowed to continue using their own models to determine the size of capital buffers in an advantage over smaller lenders who must use more conservative calculations set by regulators.
But a new ‘floor’ sets a lower limit on capital from models, to be phased in over five years to 2030. Banks say the floor duplicates capital buffers imposed by national regulators, but Brussels rejected an industry workaround, noting safeguards to avoid duplication.
The impact of the floor specifically on loans to companies with no credit rating and on “low risk” home loans will be phased in over five to eight years.
EU guidance on how banks should disclose enviromental, social and governance (ESG) risks will be embedded into law along with regular stress testing, but banks fear regulators will impose a bespoke capital buffer to cover such risks.
The proposals also harmonise a patchwork of rules on how branches of foreign banks in the EU are regulated by introducing common approaches to supervision and authorisation. Some lenders see this as a first step to the forced creation of more expensive subsidiaries.