WASHINGTON — Nine of the most systemically important firms will be the first to submit their living will plans to the banking agencies early next week, regulatory officials Friday.
Long anticipated by both industry and regulators, the plans — considered a critical element of ending 'too big to fail' — will detail how a firm can be unwound safely and could reach a total of 2,000 pages each.
Bank of America (BAC), Barclays (BCS), Citigroup (NYSE:C), JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Credit Suisse (CS), and Deutsche Bank (DB), will be among the initial batch to submit their living wills by Tuesday, along with Goldman Sachs (GS), Morgan Stanley (MS) and UBS.
Although the plans are technically due July 1, since that falls on a Sunday, the banks will have an extra business day to comply. By Friday, no institution had yet to submit its plan, according to a Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. official who briefed reporters on the process regulators will undertake in receiving and evaluating initial living wills.
The resolution plans, which include both a confidential and public portion, are expected to draw significant interest given the novelty of the exercise and will likely help to shape future standards and determine their effectiveness.
The public portion of the plans for the nine firms will released by the FDIC and the Federal Reserve Board by the close of business on July 3, according to the FDIC official. Details of the plans will include a description of the company's core business lines, financial information and a high-level description of the firm's resolution strategies.
Information revealed in those public disclosures, especially its blueprint on how it would be unwound, will not be as detailed as the plans that regulators receive. Regulators will also not be reviewing the public disclosures before they are released.
"It's likely to be a very high-level description," said an FDIC official, due to concerns shared by firms in advance of their submissions. "As a result, I think there has to be an expectation that the information the regulators will be receiving with respect to the companies' strategy for resolution will be much more detailed than the strategy that is set forth in the public" one.
Regulators agreed to stagger delivery times of resolution plans among the 125 institutions that are required to file plans into three stages. Institutions that hold $250 billion or more in total nonbank assets or foreign-based bank holding companies with $250 billion or more in total U.S. nonbank assets must submit their initial plans by July 2.
Institutions with between $100 billion and $250 billion of assets must file their living wills by July 1, 2013. All remaining firms have until Dec. 31, 2013 to comply.
Regulators have been clear that these initial plans should be viewed as one of many steps in an iterative process. The aim of the rule is to help regulators prevent the chaos seen in the financial markets following Lehman Brothers' collapse in September 2008.
"This is the first time out," the FDIC official said. "And of course, the companies that are submitting this July are the largest domestic companies or foreign companies which are doing business in the U.S.
"And so we would expect that these actually would be the most difficult plans — one, to develop, and two, in many respects to review. So there will be a dialogue between the regulators and the firms regarding the plans and we're looking at that dialogue to help inform us on the direction and guidance to be provided to those companies that have future submissions."
Officials at the FDIC and the Fed will have 60 days to review each of plans for its completeness kicking off a continuous dialogue with the company to draw up a final plan, said an FDIC official.
"The Fed and the FDIC will immediately begin undertaking that exercise after receipt of the plan," the FDIC official said. "After that the real hard work of evaluating the informational content and strategy regarding the institution's resolvability under the bankruptcy code really begins."
Regulators cautioned they will not be taking a one-size-fits-all approach in evaluating the credibility of each of the firm's plan. Rather, officials will be reviewing the strategies proposed based on the firm's characteristics, especially given the diversity of companies that are required to submit plans under the law.
"There is a very wide range of companies that are subject to this provision and out of necessity that type of analysis is really driven by the firm's characteristics," the official said.
Even though both regulators and institutions have and will spend countless hours finessing such plans, there is no requirement for either parties to actually follow the plan in the vent of a crisis. Instead, the exercise is largely viewed as guidance in the event of a pending failure and an information-gathering process for all parties involved, especially in regards to the strategic portion of the plan, given that a bank's circumstances or characteristics can change at any given moment.
Institutions are required under law to update their resolution plans annually and notify regulators in the event of a material change — at which point regulators will use their discretion whether it's necessary to update the plan immediately.
Regulators do not see these plans as static given the reality of financial markets and the industry itself, the official said.
"The financial services industry is a dynamic industry, it is not static and as a result the plans are going to have to be revised and updated in order to stay current with both what the firm is doing and also the financial environment in which the firm operates," the FDIC official said. "From that perspective, they will always be a work in progress and will always have to be updated and revised to reflect the characteristics of the firm and its business model and the financial environment."