Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Banks’ Debt Addiction Said to Face Scrutiny at Basel Group

A planned international limit on bank indebtedness will be on the agenda of every meeting of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision this year as regulators seek to wean lenders off their addiction to debt, according to three people familiar with the talks.

Regulators are preparing to fight lenders over the details of the so-called leverage ratio as they seek to toughen rules on the minimum amount of capital they must use to back their investments. The Basel group, which brings together supervisors from 27 nations, will meet in the Swiss city tomorrow, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the meetings are confidential.

Concerns over how banks calculate reserves has led U.K. bank regulator Adair Turner and U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. board member Jeremiah Norton to call for tougher leverage ratios. Global supervisors in 2010 included a draft leverage ratio in an overhaul of rules, known as Basel III, drawn up in response to the financial crisis that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.

“Early on, banks did not see it as such a big danger, or as a priority for lobbying, because it looked less likely to be implemented in the EU than other parts of Basel III,” Philippe Lamberts, the lawmaker leading the work on the Basel III rules for the European Parliament’s Green group, said in a telephone interview.

Leverage ratios force banks to hold capital equivalent to a percentage of the value of their assets. Such measures are simpler than standard capital requirements as they don’t give banks any scope to take into account the riskiness of their investments when calculating the reserves they must hold. - Full Read: Bloomberg, Bank Debt Addiction

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