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G20 Puts Banks on the Back Burner

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The bank regulatory agenda has been supplanted by trade and currency issues as investors await official pronouncements from the G20 summit taking place in Seoul.

The G20 will forgo a major decision that had originally been on the docket -- dealing with capital requirements for global banks -- when it meets Thursday in Seoul, the Financial Times reported late Tuesday, citing "people briefed on the agenda."

The report says decisions on capital requirements be left to national regulators. However, the summit is reportedly set to make progress on one front of banking regulation: Defining institutions that should be considered "systemically important."

The first group of banks, expected to include U.S. players Goldman Sachs (GS), Morgan Stanley (MS), Bank of America (BAC), Citigroup (C) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM), will be defined as systemically important from a global perspective.

Others, likely including most large Asian banks, will be classified as systemically important only within their home countries.

Sheryl Kennedy, CEO of Promontory Financial Group Canada and a former deputy governor of Canada's central bank, says regulatory officials have been working well in advance of the Seoul meeting to reach a broad consensus on such issues as capital requirements and increased oversight of systemically important institutions.

"The technical experts have been very keen to get it all sorted out in advance so it was just a question of blessing proposals made by international regulatory bodies such as the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision(Basel III) as opposed to whole bunch of surprises," Kennedy says.

Kennedy also believes the debate over macro issues like trade imbalances and currency regimes may be so fierce it has left little room for anything else, including moving ahead on bank capital requirements.

"The political analysis could be if they're so busy arguing about that they're not going to do a lot of arguing on the financial reform half of the agenda," she says.

However, Kennedy sees a chance leaders will call for more onerous capital requirements for systemically important financial institutions than many are expecting.

"That would be the one place there might be a possibility of a surprise," Kennedy says

John Chrin, a Lehigh University professor and former co-head of the JPMorgan investment banking unit that advises financial companies, sees such an outcome as unlikely.

"I don't think the G20 summit will impact the 20 largest U.S. financial institutions," he says. "They know where they stand on Basel III at this point. There doesn't appear to be anything that comes out of G20 unless there's a major blow-up with the rest of the world and the United States which causes panic in the dollar or U.S. interest rates."

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