In a rare bit of regulatory sanity and good news for the money markets, global regulators decided to delay and dilute some of the more onerous provisions of the Basel III banking regulations, the LCR, or liquidity coverage ratio. The Bank for International Settlements, in a release entitled, "Group of Governors and Heads of Supervision endorses revised liquidity standard for banks," says, "The Group of Governors and Heads of Supervision (GHOS), the oversight body of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, met today to consider the Basel Committee's amendments to the Liquidity Coverage Ratio (LCR) as a minimum standard. It unanimously endorsed them. Today's agreement is a clear commitment to ensure that banks hold sufficient liquid assets to prevent central banks becoming the "lender of first resort."
The release tells us, "The GHOS reaffirmed the LCR as an essential component of the Basel III reforms. It endorsed a package of amendments to the formulation of the LCR announced in 2010. The package has four elements: revisions to the definition of high quality liquid assets (HQLA) and net cash outflows; a timetable for phase-in of the standard; a reaffirmation of the usability of the stock of liquid assets in periods of stress, including during the transition period; and an agreement for the Basel Committee to conduct further work on the interaction between the LCR and the provision of central bank facilities."
It explains, "A summary description of the agreed LCR is in Annex 1. The changes to the definition of the LCR, developed and agreed by the Basel Committee over the past two years, include an expansion in the range of assets eligible as HQLA and some refinements to the assumed inflow and outflow rates to better reflect actual experience in times of stress. These changes are set out in Annex 2. The full text incorporating these changes will be published on Monday 7 January."
The BIS release continues, "The GHOS agreed that the LCR should be subject to phase-in arrangements which align with those that apply to the Basel III capital adequacy requirements. Specifically, the LCR will be introduced as planned on 1 January 2015, but the minimum requirement will begin at 60%, rising in equal annual steps of 10 percentage points to reach 100% on 1 January 2019. This graduated approach is designed to ensure that the LCR can be introduced without disruption to the orderly strengthening of banking systems or the ongoing financing of economic activity."
It adds, "The GHOS agreed that, during periods of stress it would be entirely appropriate for banks to use their stock of HQLA, thereby falling below the minimum. Moreover, it is the responsibility of bank supervisors to give guidance on usability according to circumstances. The GHOS also agreed today that, since deposits with central banks are the most -- indeed, in some cases, the only -- reliable form of liquidity, the interaction between the LCR and the provision of central bank facilities is critically important. The Committee will therefore continue to work on this issue over the next year."
BIS also says, "GHOS members endorsed two other areas of further analysis. First, the Committee will continue to develop disclosure requirements for bank liquidity and funding profiles. Second, the Committee will continue to explore the use of market-based indicators of liquidity to supplement the existing measures based on asset classes and credit ratings. The GHOS discussed and endorsed the Basel Committee's medium-term work agenda. Following the successful agreement of the LCR, the Committee will now press ahead with the review of the Net Stable Funding Ratio. This is a crucial component in the new framework, extending the scope of international agreement to the structure of banks' debt liabilities. This will be a priority for the Basel Committee over the next two years."
Mervyn King, Chairman of the GHOS and Governor of the Bank of England, said, "The Liquidity Coverage Ratio is a key component of the Basel III framework. The agreement reached today is a very significant achievement. For the first time in regulatory history, we have a truly global minimum standard for bank liquidity. Importantly, introducing a phased timetable for the introduction of the LCR, and reaffirming that a bank's stock of liquid assets are usable in times of stress, will ensure that the new liquidity standard will in no way hinder the ability of the global banking system to finance a recovery." See also, Bloomberg's "Banks Win Watered Down Liquidity Rule to Prevent Lending Squeeze" and Wall Street Journal's "Regulators Give Ground to Banks".