November 30, 2017 / 10:25 PM / 17 days ago

Big U.S. banks in last-ditch push on regulatory relief bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Wall Street banks and big regional lenders are scrambling to secure changes to a U.S. Senate bill easing rules on smaller banks ahead of a key lawmaker meeting next week, several bank lobbyists told Reuters.

A sign outside the headquarters of JP Morgan Chase & Co in New York, September 19, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Segar

The effort underscores how a year into the presidency of Republican Donald Trump, who pledged to slash financial red tape, the largest U.S. banks are still struggling to secure the regulatory relief they had hoped for.

The bill offers little relief for many bigger lenders but lifts a significant burden for smaller banks and custodians. Large lenders are pushing for tweaks to help narrow that gap, multiple people with knowledge of their strategies said.  

Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee this month reached a tentative deal that would more than halve the number of banks labeled systemically risky, freeing them from stricter oversight from the Federal Reserve.

The bipartisan bill would mark the first major easing of financial regulations introduced following the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

But it has disappointed many of the largest U.S. banks, which under the bill are still big enough to be lumbered with the costly systemically risky label, and for which the bill currently offers few other compensations.

That group includes JPMorgan Chase & Co JPMN>, Goldman Sachs Group Inc GS.N and Citigroup Inc C.N, which are global banks, as well as U.S. Bancorp USB.N, PNC Financial Services Group Inc PNC.N and Capital One Financial Corp COF.N, which are domestic.

Senate Republicans spent months winning support of at least eight Democrats needed to pass the bill, resulting in a compromise that raises the threshold at which lenders are deemed systemically risky to $250 billion from $50 billion.

That would put the so-called super-regional banks like U.S. Bancorp, Capital One and PNC, which are above the new threshold but not global, at a disadvantage to their smaller regional competitors freed from the extra regulatory burden.

“We are disappointed. We would rather see no bill than this bill,” said one super-regional bank lobbyist, adding that regardless his institution would not oppose the bill. “Plan B ... is to fix it on the margins.”

Senators will formally discuss any potential changes to the bill next week.

While there is little prospect of shifting the asset threshold, the super-regionals hope to win tweaks to other areas of the bill that would reduce the operational burden associated with some capital calculations and give the Federal Reserve more freedom when applying the systemically risky rules, three people with knowledge of the strategy said.

The bill also makes life much easier for custody banks like BNY Mellon BK.N and State Street Corp STT.N by exempting the customer deposits they place with central banks from a stringent capital calculation requirement.

The rest of the global U.S. banks are hoping to persuade lawmakers to put them on an equal footing with the custodians, three other people with knowledge of the discussions said.

Any of those changes will likely be a tough sell. Senator Mark Warner, one of bill’s Democratic co-sponsors, said the bill had struck a delicate balance between Democrat and Republican priorities.

“Both sides are at their breaking point,” he said.

But lobbyists believe they will have another opportunity to push for changes when the Republican-dominated U.S. House of Representatives considers the Senate bill once it passes.

Some lobbyists believe they can garner enough support from House Republicans to have their changes incorporated into a final compromise package.

Tom Quaadman, an executive vice president with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said it was “disappointing” Congress simply raised the threshold.

But the business group broadly supports the bill as a step toward easing rules it says are suffocating small business lending.

“We think that Congress in the end is going to have to do more to get to a solution,” Quaadman added.

Reporting by Pete Schroeder and Michelle Price in Washington and Olivia Oran in New York; Editing by Lauren Tara LaCapra and Meredith Mazzilli

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