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Fed proposes easing post-crisis rules for big banks

JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America are among those that would benefit from the proposed changes.

Jerome H. Powell, chair of the Federal Reserve, listens during a meeting in Washington on April 8. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News)

The Federal Reserve Board on Monday proposed easing key post-crisis regulations for the country’s biggest banks, despite concerns from one member that the proposal goes too far.

Under the plan, big banks such as JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America would have to submit their full “living wills” — plans for their closure during another economic crisis — every four years instead of every year. Slightly smaller banks, including Capital One and Deutsche Bank, would have to file their complete plans once every six years.

The proposal comes as the Trump administration continues to look for ways to curtail the regulatory burden faced by the banking industry, a decade after the global financial crisis. The industry has complained many of the strictest rules are too cumbersome and costly.

The industry has specifically targeted the yearly “living wills,” a requirement that banking institutions have a plan to close their doors in an emergency without harming the economy or requiring a taxpayer bailout. Industry officials have said banks are healthier today than before the financial crisis and that the frequent check-ins are unnecessary.

Fed officials have reviewed banks’ living wills for seven years and say the change is warranted. Despite the yearly requirement, reviewing a single “living will” submission for the biggest banks typically takes two years already, the officials said.

“The proposal seeks to increase the efficiency of firms without compromising the strong resiliency of the financial sector,” Randy Quarles, the Fed vice chair for supervision, said in a statement.

Under the proposal, big banks would submit a slimmed-down version of “living wills” in between the traditional one they file every four or six years. Most U.S. banks with less than $250 billion in assets, such as American Express and M&T Bank, would be exempt from the living-will requirement.

The change for the smallest banks was called for under a law passed last year rolling back key regulations. But the help being offered to the biggest banks goes beyond the legislation, and some critics say the banking industry is already reporting record profits without a rollback of the rules.

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Lael Brainard, a member of the Fed’s Board of Governors and an Obama-era appointee, said she would support easing the rules but the proposal could “leave the system less safe.”

“We saw clearly in the crisis that the failure of one or more large banking organizations may lead to severe stress in the financial system,” Brainard said in a statement. “I am concerned the proposals . . . would weaken the important safeguard put in place to address vulnerabilities that proved extremely damaging in the crisis.”

The Federal Reserve also proposed easing regulatory requirements for some foreign banks with U.S. operations. Those banks would face roughly the same level of scrutiny as their U.S.-based competitors, under the proposal.

The public can submit comments on the proposed changes until June. It is unclear when the Fed would finalize them.