NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Nearly four years after the nation's largest banks received massive federal bailouts and the complete loss of credibility, the industry's latest cynical attempt to throw a monkey wrench into the regulatory works could backfire against Republicans and their bank-friends.
Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) -- the Chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services -- on Thursday sent a letter to Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke requesting a 90-day extension to the public comment period on Basel III, conveniently pushing the Fed's final ruling until well after the November elections.
Bachus said that "this rule is extremely complex, so additional time for commenting is certainly justified," and that "a longer comment period will lead to more substantive comments, which in turn will be much more useful to reviewers."
The Federal Reserve, along with the U.S. Treasury, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency on June 7 issued proposed rules to implement the enhanced Basel III capital standards for large banks, seeking comments by Sept. 7.Public opinion will certainly not take kindly to an attempt to forestall capital requirements that were years in the making, especially in light of the bailout, and bank stock investors have already ponied up plenty of pesos to pay for the bailout, and then some, as banks continue to build their capital positions. The banks -- and even the regulators -- have already shown plenty of confidence that the largest financial players will comfortably meet the fully Basel III requirements as they are phased in through the end of 2018.
- The Federal Reserve in March approved a plan by JPMorgan Chase (JPM) to increase its quarterly dividend by a nickel a share to 30 cents, along with $12 billion in common share repurchases s during 2012, followed by another $3 billion in buybacks during the first quarter of 2013. While JPMorgan CEO James Dimon suspended the buyback in May program after disclosing the company's hedge trading losses, when the company on July 13 reported a second-quarter profit of $5 billion -- even after $4.4 billion in trading losses -- Dimon said "hopefully, if all goes well, we can start buying back stock early in the fourth quarter." JPMorgan estimated that under the capital rules proposed in June, the company's Basel III Tier 1 common equity ratio was 7.9% as of June 30, and would rise to 9.1% "after impact of mitigants and runoff through 2014." JPMorgan Chase's fully phased-in Tier 1 common equity ratio requirement will be 7.0%, plus an additional buffer of up to 2.5%, at the end of 2018.
- Bank of America (BAC) estimated that as of June 30 its Tier 1 common equity ratio was 8.1%, "on a fully phased-in basis." The company did not request Federal Reserve approval for any increased capital return to investors during 2012 through a dividend increase or share buybacks. CFO Bruce Thompson said during the company's earnings conference call on July 18 that the company had "estimated we would be in excess of 7.5% under Basel III at the end of the year; so based on where we came at out at the end of the quarter we are quite pleased with the progress we have made so far." CEO Brian Moynihan said that "we continue to make strong progress and feel good about where we stand, especially in light of our Basel III guidance. In a year's time we have gone from being behind our peers to being ahead of our peers."
- Citigroup (C) estimated that its June 30 Basel III Tier 1 common equity ratio under the capital rules proposed in June was 7.9%, "up from 7.2% in the first quarter," according to CFO John Gerspach, who also said during the company's earnings call that "we continue to expect to be above an 8% Basel III Tier 1 Common Ratio later this year." While the Fed in March rejected the company's plan to begin returning capital to shareholders, Citigroup looks to be a long-term capital return story for investors. Atlantic Equities analyst Richard Staite said in July that Citigroup had as much as $63 billion in excess capital tied up in its Citi Holdings run-off subsidiary and deferred tax assets, setting the company up for a significant capital return during 2013.
- Wells Fargo (WFC) in March received Fed approval to raise its quarterly dividend to 22 cents a share from 10 cents, and for the company to execute "a higher level of common share repurchase activity in 2012 versus 2011," when it bought back 85.8 million shares. Wells Fargo bought back roughly 53 million shares during the second quarter, and entered into forward purchase agreements to buy back 11 million more shares in the third quarter. The company's estimated Basel III Tier 1 common equity ratio under the capital rules proposed in June was 7.78% as of June 30. While he couldn't provide specific figures on buyback plans, CFO Tim Sloan said during the company's earnings call that "we continue to believe our shares are undervalued, and we are going to continue to be in the market."
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