To hear U.S. Bancorp's top executive tell it, a regulatory reform bill looking very much like Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd's proposal will pass by Memorial Day, go into effect by July 4 and leave plenty of unanswered questions about the future of banking.
"Lest you think that it will provide more clarity, it will not," Richard K. Davis, the Minneapolis company's chairman and chief executive, said Tuesday at the UBS global financial services conference in New York. "It will simply create the next level of uncertainty. So we'll deal with it, we'll handle it — we can handle anything — but we're not looking forward to it."
U.S. Bancorp already is forecasting a pretax impact of $300 million to $400 million between last year's credit card reform act and more recent plans to crackdown on overdraft fees. In addition to capping accounts to three overdraft fees in a single day, waiving fees on overdrafts of less than $10 and giving customers a choice this summer to opt in or out of overdraft protection, U.S. Bancorp announced Monday it will reduce overdraft fees to $10 for transactions of $20 or less, making the fee "far lower than what is currently offered by any other major bank."
Davis said he expects consumer protections to figure strongly into the reform bill. "We're hoping that policy and politics intersect well here. If they don't, then we'll just have to react to what could be a very overzealous consumer protection agency," he said.
Regardless of how the congressional debate shakes out, there are unknowns of greater concern to the industry, including changes to the Basel capital standards and the use of mark-to-market accounting as well as the rules that will implement the new law, Davis said. "Way more important to all of us in the room is what the financial decision is going to be on capital and liquidity," he told the audience. "So I mean, I'm a big pundit on what's happening in Washington. I watch it by the minute and I care. But the fact is, I'm more interested in finding out when we finally get the rules set on the final capital requirements and the liquidity definitions."