European banks have asked EU Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier and other European Union leaders to postpone Basel III regulations aimed at strengthening the financial sector in view of a similar US decision which the banks say would put them at a disadvantage.
"I ask the participants to take into account the problem of an unlevel playing field created by this US decision," said Christian Clausen, head of the European Banking Federation (EBF), in a letter to Barnier
Clausen called for the authorities to decide on the final package for the European Union "accordingly by considering the postponement of the entry into force of the CRR/CRD IV until 1 January 2014."
He referred to an EU directive detailing implementation measures of what are known as the Basel III regulations which were drawn up to make banks better able to withstand financial shocks.
The EBF letter was addressed to the EU Commission, but similar ones were also to be sent to the European Council and the European Parliament, the three poles of EU power which aim to begin implementing Basel III regulations on January 1.
The regulations were drafted in the wake of the 2007-2009 global financial crisis, and require financial institutions in particular to hold larger amounts of liquid reserves as a buffer against future crises.
In theory, the rules are to be progressively implemented by banks worldwide beginning in January, but US authorities said on November 9 that they were postponing application there indefinitely.
"I urge you to consider the possibility to mirror the US Authorities’ understanding for the practical implications of compliance of the new rules by setting a realistic entry into force date of the new obligations for Europe’s banks," Clausen wrote.
When it announced the US position, the US Federal Reserve pointed to a Basel III regulatory capital rule and underscored concern by the US financial sector that it would not have "sufficient time to understand the rule or to make necessary systems changes" by January 1.
Clausen said: "We are now very troubled over the possible repercussions that the most recent statement from the US Authorities may have for the international competitiveness of Europe’s banks."
While European banks could soon face constraints with respect to their capital requirements, liquidity buffers, leverage ratios, resolution regimes and structural changes that would split off wholesale banking activities, "our US competitors will not have matching obligations imposed on them in parallel, or in a foreseeable future," the EBF head explained.