Introduction

On 10 December 2012, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Bank of England (BOE) published a joint strategy paper on the resolution of globally active, systemically important, financial institutions (G-SIFIs).

Broadly speaking, there are two main approaches to the resolution of G-SIFIs:

  • “Single point of entry” (or “top down”) resolution pursuant to which a single national resolution authority applies resolution powers to the parent company of a failing financial group; or
  • “Multiple point of entry” resolution whereby resolution powers are applied to different parts of a failing financial group by two or more resolution authorities in coordination.

The paper focuses on “top-down” resolution with respect to both UK and US cross-border financial services groups.  The key advantage of “top-down” resolution is seen as being the ability for viable subsidiaries, both domestic and foreign, to continue to operate.  Not only should this limit contagion but it will hopefully mitigate cross-border complications arising as a result of the institution of separate territorial and entity-focused insolvency proceedings.  However, it is expressly recognised that there are certain circumstances where “multiple point of entry” resolution will be necessary, for example where losses are so great that they could not be absorbed by a group level bail-in or make the job of valuing the capital needs of the institution in resolution too difficult.

US approach to single point of entry resolution

The sequence of events with respect to a US single point of entry resolution is as follows:

Appointment of Receiver

The FDIC is appointed receiver of the parent holding company of the failing financial group.

Asset Transfer

The FDIC transfers assets (primarily equity and investments in subsidiaries) from the receivership estate to a bridge financial holding company.  In contrast, shareholder claims and claims of subordinated and unsecured debt holders remain in the receivership.  As such, the assets of the bridge holding company will far exceed its liabilities.

Valuation

A valuation process is undertaken so as to estimate the extent of losses in the receivership and allow their apportionment to shareholders and unsecured creditors in accordance with insolvency rankings.

Bail-In

Bail-in occurs to ensure that the bridge holding company has a strong capital base.  So as to provide a cushion against future losses, remaining debt claims are converted in part into equity claims in the new operation and/or into convertible subordinated debt.  Any remaining debt claims are transferred to the new operation in the form of new unsecured debt.

Liquidity Concerns are Addressed

To the extent that liquidity concerns have not been addressed by the transfer of equity and investments in operating subsidiaries to the bridge holding company, the FDIC can provide assurances of performance and/or limited scope guarantees.  As a last resort, the FDIC may also access the Orderly Liquidation Fund (OLF), a fund within the U.S. Treasury set up under the Dodd-Frank Act.  However, the Dodd-Frank Act prohibits the loss of any taxpayer money in the orderly liquidation process.  Therefore, any OLF funds used must either be repaid from recoveries on the assets of the failed financial company or from assessments made against the largest, most complex financial companies.

Firm is restructured

In this stage, the focus will be on making the failed firm less systemically important and more resolvable.  Senior management are likely to be removed at this point.

Ownership Transfer

The final stage of the process is to transfer ownership and control of the surviving operation to private hands.

UK approach to single point of entry resolution

The sequence of events with respect to a UK single point of entry resolution is as follows:

Equity/Debt Transfer

Initially, existing equity and debt securities will be transferred to an appointed trustee.

Listing Suspension

Subsequently, the listing of the company’s equity securities (and potentially debt securities) would be suspended.

Valuation

A valuation process would then be undertaken in order to understand the extent of the losses expected to be incurred by the firm and, in turn, the recapitalisation requirement.

Bail-In

Following valuation, an announcement of the terms of any write-down and/or conversion pursuant to the exercise of bail-in powers would be made to the previous security holders.  In writing down losses, the existing creditor hierarchy would be respected.   Inter-company loans would be written down in a manner that ensures that the subsidiaries remain viable.  Deposit Guarantee Schemes would also be bailed-in at this point.  At the end of the process, the firm would be recapitalised and would likely be owned by its original creditors.

Liquidity Concerns are Addressed

So as to mitigate liquidity issues and facilitate market access, illiquid assets could be transferred to an asset management company to be worked out over a longer period.  In the event that market funding was simply not available, temporary funding could be provided by authorities on a fully collateralized, haircut, basis.  However, any losses associated with the provision of such temporary public sector support would be recovered from the financial sector as a whole.

Firm is Restructured

On completion of the bail-in process, the firm would be restructured to address the causes of its failure.

Re-Transfer

Subsequently, the trustee would transfer the equity (and potentially some debt) back to the original creditors of the firm.  Any creditors which are unable to hold equity securities (e.g. due to mandate restrictions) would be able to request that the trustee sell the equity on their behalf.

Resumption of Trading

The final stage of the process would involve the dissolution of the trust and the resumption of trading in the equity and/or debt securities of the restructured firm.

Similarities Between the Regimes

Both approaches emphasise the importance of ensuring the continuity of critical services of the failing group, whether in the home jurisdiction or abroad.  Shareholders under both regimes can expect to be wiped out and unsecured debt holders can expect their claims to be written down (to reflect any losses that shareholders cannot cover) and/or partly converted into equity (in order to recapitalise the entity in question).  Existing insolvency hierarchies will be respected, but in both cases, a valuation process will be required.  The precise mechanics of any such valuation are unlikely to be the same across both the UK and the US, but consideration is being given in both jurisdictions as to the extent to which the valuation process can be prepared in advance.  Not only would the valuation process assess the losses that a firm had incurred and what financial instruments (if any) the different classes of creditors of the firm should receive, but it would also assess the future capital needs of the business necessary to restore “confidence” in the firm.  It seems likely that this will be a level significantly higher than that required simply to restore viability.  In both cases, resolution will be accompanied by an restructuring of the business.  This may involve breaking an institution into smaller, less systemically important entities, liquidating or closing certain operations and a replacement of management.

The future

The high level strategies detailed by the FDIC and BOE will be translated into detailed resolution plans for each firm during the first half of 2013. It is anticipated that firm-specific resolvability assessments will be developed by the end of 2013 on the basis of the resolution plans.

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