WASHINGTON — Regulators gave an update Tuesday on efforts required by the Dodd-Frank Act to crack down on executive pay structures, on the same day they tweaked a rule narrowing the payments available to creditors of failed behemoths.
While issuing no proposals, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s board of directors discussed a section of the law calling for rules to bar risky compensation agreements, a subject the agencies had already broached a number of times. The board also finalized a rule — with certain changes — clarifying which creditors could get extra relief under the FDIC's new resolution powers.
The issue of compensation, which critics say drove up risk preceding the crisis, has already been dealt with in various halls of government. But Dodd-Frank attempts to find a more cohesive solution. It requires the banking agencies, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Housing Finance Agency to craft a rule by April that would force institutions to disclose incentive compensation agreements with executives and prohibit pay packages considered excessive.
At the meeting, officials said the agencies, facing an approaching deadline, were making progress toward the joint policy and expect to unveil a proposal soon.
"The agencies' staffs have made good progress in building a consensus on a prudential framework for incentive-based compensation that aligns with an organization's long-term success," Steve Fritts, an associate director in the FDIC's division of supervision and consumer protection, said in a briefing to the board.
Some observers said pay restrictions may benefit from a joint rule from all of the regulators.
"If Dodd-Frank gets them to all play together on this issue, that's a good start," said Cornelius Hurley, the director of the Morin Center for Banking and Financial Law at Boston University. "It has been a little discordant up to this point."
The board also issued a final rule saying the agency will be tightfisted in relieving creditors of systemically important firms that fail. While the regulation was largely unchanged from an October proposal, the FDIC issued it as an interim rule — meaning further changes are still on the table — with an additional comment period of 60 days.
The regulation is the agency's first move to implement powers under Dodd-Frank to unwind financial behemoths. The law allows the agency to give some creditors more relief than to others in similar classes.
But the FDIC said it would use that authority sparingly, only giving extra coverage to general services deemed crucial to operating a receivership. Under the rule, which was largely unchanged from the proposal, shareholders, subordinated debtholders and long-term senior debtholders are expressly prohibited from the favorable treatment.
More time was given to reflect two narrow changes. Amid some confusion about how collateral would be valued for secured claims in a resolution, the FDIC said it would use the collateral's fair market value. The agency also modified the treatment of certain contingent claims to be more consistent with the bankruptcy code.
But the FDIC also provided more time for comment as some market watchers have said the rule is too rigid and that short-term creditors could be favored over long-term debtholders.
"It's very important to get this right and avoid placing the FDIC in a position that limits its own flexibility," said John Walsh, the acting comptroller of the currency and a member of the FDIC board.
FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said it was important to limit the agency's authority to provide extra coverage.
"The more we could narrow this discretion within responsible parameters I think the better off we are," she said.
Meanwhile, the coming standards on executive pay appear likely to go further than the steps the Federal Reserve Board and other banking agencies have already made.
In addition to following existing regulatory guidance, the Dodd-Frank law allows shareholders to vote on executive pay and so-called golden parachutes, and asks the SEC to bar securities listings for firms without independent compensation committees or that lack "clawback" provisions.